Every cemetery in Detroit: Evergreen Cemetery

Okay. Let’s visit every cemetery in Detroit, shall we?

We start with an approachable cemetery: Right next door to Woodlawn, cemetery of millionaires, is unassuming Evergreen, cemetery of normal people. Three seasons a year, I bike to and through Woodlawn regularly, but until a few weeks ago I had never visited Evergreen, because it just didn’t look that interesting.

Evergreen Cemetery (19807 Woodward Ave) was founded in 1905. It was an era of cemetery-building on Woodward Avenue; Evergreen was followed by Roseland Park in what is now Royal Oak (formerly a pasture, organized 1906) and lower Ferndale’s Jewish cemeteries Machpelah (1912), Beth Tefilo (1910), Beth Abraham (1912), and Nusach Hari (1914). Although the cemetery originally acquired over 200 acres of land south of Woodlawn, today the cmetery is a narrow 50-acre stretch running west from Woodward.

A few Detroit business men have purchased the property and will shortly build a combined chapel and vault. The mausoleum underneath the chapel will contain 100 crypts, so that immediately after the ceremony in the chapel the body will be lowered into the vault.

Detroit Free Press, Apr. 9, 1905

Tombstone of George Barton Peck, 1905-1928.

A growing population in Detroit meant a growing need for places to bury people — and an escalating demand for cemeteries that would welcome and accommodate people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Walk through Evergreen and take in the Romanian, Ukranian, Greek, Hungarian, and Armenian names.

Tombstone of Archpriest Mihai Iancu, 1927 – 2003. 

Evergreen is scattered with a few displays of above-average wealth: private mausoleums, sky-spearing obelisks, stone ladies in robes. This one was my favorite:

Memorial to Clarence Watson, 1874-1927, and Mabel Evans, b. 190

Clarence Watson was born in Ontario and became “one of the successful and physicians and surgeons in Detroit,” with handsomely appointed offices at No. 47 31st St. and Michigan Ave., according to Paul Leake’s History of Detroit.

In 1921, some dumbasses tried to get their holiday evergreens from Evergreen:

“Spruce trees shading a plot in Evergreen cemetery were cut down for use as Christmas trees, for the second time in a year, before daylight Friday.”

Detroit Free Press, Dec. 24, 1921

Tombstone of Grace Greenizen, b. 1846, and Simon Greenizen, 1843-1919.

Also in 1921, the American Association of Cemetery Superintendents held their 35th-annual convention in Detroit. While in town, the superintendents — in a convoy of over 50 cars — visited 12 cemeteries, including  “new grounds under development, roads in process of construction, new bridges, tents, lowering devices and motor lawn mowers in actual use.” The group traveled in a convoy of 50 cars, and after visiting Evergreen, where they examined construction underway at the community mausoleum, everyone went to Palmer Park for a picnic lunch.


Chapel and mausoleum at Evergreen Cemetery.

Louise Dewald was the only woman in attendance at the Detroit convention. She was then, and may still be, the only female cemetery commissioner in the country, and at the time she was the highest-ranking woman in Cleveland city government. Later in her life she got in trouble for paying her female employees waaaaaay less than their male colleagues, and also for some embezzlement. Nonetheless I think she may be my new favorite historical person from Cleveland.

The only Detroit mayor to be recalled from office, Charles Bowles, who served barely six months of his term in 1930, is buried at Evergreen. The story is crazy (it involves both the Ku Klux Klan and the murder of a popular radio personality) if you are curious.

So that’s our visit to Evergreen! What about yours?

#american association of cemetery superintendents#cemetery history detroit#clarence watson#detroit cemeteries#evergreen cemetery#every cemetery in detroit#george barton peck#greenizen#louise dewald#woodward avenue cemeteries


  1. Loren Rhoads - July 26, 2013 @ 9:44 am

    Thanks for this! I’ve been to Woodlawn, but I haven’t stopped in to Evergreen Cemetery yet. Now I want to go.

  2. amy - July 26, 2013 @ 10:45 am

    You should stop by next time! It’s worth seeing.

  3. J. - August 7, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

    Oh, it’s nice to see Evergreen here! It’s our family cemetery. Back in the seventies and eighties, my grandmother and great-grandmother used to bring my cousins and I here when we were quite small. We’d help them to raise and clean the family headstones, and plant flowers all around, and make a special trip back to the babies’ section to see the stone of my grandmother’s infant sister (almost all the stones were sunken and overgrown in that section; no one seems to have visited the babies in decades.) We even tracked down a family mystery in the far back section — my great-grandfather’s first wife and baby, both dead in childbed.

    That cemetery was a place of real delight when we were little. We played there, admired the statuary, and there were always cheeseburgers and shakes for a treat after a morning of planting flowers. I have always appreciated this place as a home not only to my ancestors, but to a lot of pleasant memories as well. Thanks… looking forward to exploring your blog!

  4. Kurt R - January 27, 2014 @ 10:07 am

    Thanks for this. Many relatives are buried there, including my grandparents and great-grandparents. I came across your Web site as I was looking for a phone number for the cemetery to inquire about plots for my wife and me.

  5. Andrew L. - February 16, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

    My story is similar to this of J. & Kurt — Evergreen is about my family too. But I was hoping to see a photo if my favorite stone there (after my relatives, of course). It bears the name BIER over the name SAMPLE. Try as I might, I’ve never found the tap.

  6. Ronnette W - October 29, 2015 @ 10:08 am

    I too love this cemetery firstly because my Dad’s ashes are there in the mausoleum and secondly because it is so peaceful and beautifully maintained. I enjoy strolling around after each visit and it really calms the spirit and opens my senses to all the beauty that surrounds me. I have shared my wishes with my family to place me in the mausoleum when my times comes. I hope it’s no time soon, but I know I will be at peace there. Thank you for this article.

  7. Kathryn F. - August 16, 2016 @ 9:37 pm

    Evergreen is the place I learned to drive. As a child I would always accompany my mother to caretake the graves of family members from both my mother’s and my father’s families. During the year of 1964 I had my learners permit to drive. My mother would take me to Evergreen and let me drive to roads of the cemetery. I guess she figured I couldn’t kill anyone there. I’ve just been there recently doing some genealogy research and the memories came flooding back of my youth and being with my mom to care for those who walked before us.

  8. John Lee - November 15, 2016 @ 3:24 am

    I read this after doing a search for Evergreen Cemetery in Detroit. It was found that Jimmy Hoffa was cremated at the Cemetery. A funeral home close to the house where he was killed took the body to this Cemetery for cremation. But I cannot find anywhere that there was a Crematory at the Cemetery. It was not stated that his ashes were taken to the Cemetery but that it was done there. ????

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