1826 – 1844
521 North Main Street – map
If you were Catholic and died in the pueblo of Los Angeles prior to 1820 or so, you were probably buried at the San Gabriel Mission, home to the only Church-consecrated ground back then.
With the Plaza Church on the right.
Then, with the building of Iglesia Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles, or Plaza Church, on Main Street, folks began to be buried on a plot just south of the new church (actually, according to San Gabriel records, they were buried there as early as 1820, two years before Plaza Church went up). Between 1826 and 1844, about 650 people were interred in the cemetery, according to the church burial register.
As space ran out in the mid-1840s, the bodies – primarily early Mexican and Spanish settlers along with a few Gabrielino Indians – were dug up and moved to Calvary Cemetery on Eternity Street (now North Broadway). (The bodies didn’t stay there too long, either. In 1896, they began being moved again, this time to the (New) Calvary Church in the City of Commerce, a process which lasted until the 1930s. That cemetery is still in operation.)
Does anyone know when the cemetery was paved over for a parking lot? Does anyone know when it was unpaved to its current condition? Does anyone really know what time it is? Does anyone really care? The black and white photo above, probably from the mid-1980s, is from L.A.'s Department of City Planning website.
There is still some conjecture as to whether all the bodies were exhumed from the cemetery back in the 19th century. This means that those folks who eventually work in the 1883 Plaza House building next door (currently being converted into a center for Mexican-American history, genealogy, and culture), covered in black in the shots above, could literally be working on top of an old Indian burial ground.
Taken from the back of the cemetery.
For what it’s worth, the first public cemetery in Los Angeles was on Fort Moore Hill.
The back entrance of the cemetery. Donna and Troy here told me there was a $25 per picture fee for taking shots of the cemetery. I was skeptical, but I really wanted that shot.
Up next: The Castle