Memorial Cemetery

History

 

The Memorial Park Cemetery located between 6th and 9th Avenues and Fairbanks and Cordova Streets in downtown Anchorage, Alaska was originally established as the Cemetery Reserve by President Woodrow Wilson in Executive Order 2242 of August 31, 1915, coincident with the federal survey of the original Anchorage Town site. Then with Executive Order 2836 of April 10, 1918, President Wilson directed that burial land be made available, without charge, to the public.

He also ordered that the Cemetery Reserve of the Anchorage Town site be subdivided to sell up to half of the cemetery land to qualified religious and fraternal organizations. Because of these two provisions, free burial land for the public, and up to 50 percent of the land could be (and now is) owned by private religious and fraternal groups, the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery is one of the most unusual cemeteries in the nation. In 1925-26, patents were issued to private religious and fraternal organizations for 10 of the 20 available tracts.

It is assumed that the original town site government took responsibility for the operation of the cemetery in the early years. During these days, there was no published policy, structure or active management. Burials were conducted by tract owners and by the township/city at various times of the day and days of the week with little or no coordination or central recording. Grounds-keeping, maintenance, and grave recording were tract owner responsibilities. It wasn't until 1979 that the Municipality of Anchorage was designated as the "managing agency" and renamed the cemetery to its current name, the Anchorage Memorial Park . From 1979 until 1991, a city official managed the cemetery as a collateral duty but was not on-site to oversee operations. During this time, several local community leaders and townspeople volunteered their time and efforts to maintain the cemetery as best they could. In 1991, a part-time manager was placed on-site and in 1998 a full-time Cemetery Director was employed to manage all cemetery operations. From the first burial of record of Mr. Francis Amestoy on July 6, 1915 through to today, there have been over 11,000 burials at the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery.

Through the years, the cemetery has undergone many changes. In 1951, a portion of the original Cemetery Reserve was conditionally sold to the Alaska Housing Authority for public housing in the form of the Willow Park Apartments. Subsequently, the Willow Park Apartments were razed in 1991 and the land reverted to the Municipality of Anchorage and ultimately back to the Cemetery. This land is now the "New" cemetery grounds and has added 4690 graves to the existing 12,835. In April, 1991, the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery Advisory Commission was formed and acts in an advisory capacity to the Mayor and the Assembly on all matter of policy concerning the Cemetery. On April 26, 1993, the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery was listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. 

The first John Bagoy Solstice Tour was conducted in 1995 featuring graveside presentations of colorful pioneers, local merchants, political figures and influential community leaders.  In July 2011 the first Cemetery Stories tour was conducted as a self guided walking tour presented by costumed actors who tell the story of historical figures at their gravesites. In 2012 a second Stories "tour" in August was conducted on stage.  That format continues today on the second Sunday of July and August.

At the turn of the century, construction of the Columbarium Wall  began in the spring of 2001.  After two years, the Columbarium Wall dedication ceremony was held on Memorial Day 2003. 

In October 2008 the water well project was completed and connected to the in ground irrigation system that was installed in 2006.  These two pieces allowed the cemetery to provide all its own water, took it off the city water supply and made the cemetery more efficient.

As part of the cemetery centennial celebration a time capsule was interred during a ceremony in August 2015.  The time capsule was filled with mementos collected from Tract owners, business partners and staff.  The items include a cel phone, grocery adds, National Geographic magazines, flags that had flown in the cemetery, a $60 speeding ticket (paid), purple Play-Doh, a Muldooners Hockey Club hockey puck (of course) and an Alaskan Aces hockey team cow bell.

One of our most meaningful accomplishments was the cemetery being selected as the fifth cemetery in the country to host the Tears Foundation Angel of Hope Monument in 2016  It is quite an honor to help bereaved families honor the life of a child.  To be able to dedicate a lasting memorial for families who have lost a child is a special role for the cemetery.

PRIVATE TRACTOWNERS
Organization    Tract  Organization        Tract 
   

Pioneers of AK 

1, 10 & 11 Elks         2
Catholic Archdiocese            5 & 6                       Masons         9
American Legion         20 Moose         12
   
       

 

HISTORICAL TIMELINE
  • March 1914       Alaska Engineering Commission chartered survey of the Anchorage town site
  • August 1915       President Wilson's Executive Order 2242 set aside the cemetery reserve
  • April 1918       Executive Order 2836 contained two provisions:
                           (1) Burial land free to public
                           (2) Sell to private religious/fraternal groups
  • 1925-26         Ten tracts sold as specified above
  • August 1951   Cemetery Reserve conditionally sold to Alaska State Housing  Authority for Willow  Park Apartments
  • February 1975  Declared a memorial park and renamed Anchorage Memorial Park
  • August 1979   Municipality of Anchorage designated as "managing agency"
  • 1989-91         Willow Park Apartments razed and land reverted back to the Cemetery
  • April 1991       Cemetery Advisory Commission established
  • August 1991   Wrought iron fence installed around the perimeter 
  • Nov. 1991       Part-time manager placed on-site
  • April 1993      Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
  • June 1995       First Solstice Tour presented by John Bagoy
  • July 1997        Established Perpetual Care Fund
  • Sept.1998       Full-time manager placed on-site
  • Jan. 1999        Internet Website established
  • July 2001        Columbarium Wall construction begun
  • April 2002      Grave location mapping capability added to the website
  • Feb. 2003       Columbarium Wall dedication and opening 
  • August 2004   Cemetery landscaping project completed
  • Sept. 2006      Road resurfacing project completed
  • Oct. 2006        Cemetery  irrigation system installed
  • Oct. 2008        Well project completed
  • July 2011        First Cemetery Stories Tour presented
  • August 2012   First survey of entire grounds since original survey in 1921
  • Jan. 2014       Upright grave markers approved throughout cemetery
  • August 2015   Centennial Time Capsule interred in Tract 13
  • August 2016   Angel of Hope monument dedicated
  • July 2018        GIS grave mapping program added to website
  • Nov. 2018       A magnitude 7.1 earthquake toppled two markers 
  • July 2019        Bell Tower Project construction begins
STATISTICS As of January 1, 2020
  • Cemetery area: 22.24 acres
  • (21.05 useable, due to roads, etc.)
  • Old Cemetery: 15.22 acres
  • New Cemetery: 5.83 acres
  • 20 Old Cemetery Tracts (@ 3/4 acre)
  • 2 New Cemetery Tracts (@ 3 acres)
  • Total Grave Sites: 17,525
  • Total Burials/Inurnments: 11,818 
  • Public Tract Grave Sites: 11,336
  • Public Tract Burials: 8,964
  • Private Tract Grave Sites: 6,189
  • Private Tract Burials: 2,854
  • Columbarium Wall Inurnments:  637
  • Lot Reservations: 1,804  
  • Number of Burials & Columbarium inurnments in 2019:  237
  • Reservations made in 2019: 76 
COLUMBARIUM WALL
  • Single Niches (1 Urn):  1755
  • Companion Niches (Up to 3 Urns):  1872
  • Family Niches (Up to 8 Urns):  234
  • Total Niches:  3861
  • Capacity of Urns:  9243
  • Niches Sold:  751
  • Inurnments:  637
NUMBER OF BURIALS IN EACH TRACT

 

TRACT   NUMBER BURIED 
 Columbarium Wall  637
 Tract 1, 10 & 11 Pioneers   722
 Tract 2 Elks   359
 Tract 3 Public  475
 Tract 4 Public   484
 Tract 5 & 6 Catholic       1103
 Tract 7 Public  658
 Tract 8 Public  616
 Tract 9 Masons   261
 Tract 12 Moose 148
 Tract 13 Public  643
  Tract 14 Public   675
 Tract 15 Public  438
 Tract 16 Public  379
 Tract 17 Public  519
 Tract 18 Public  669
 Tract 19 Veterans  491
 Tract 20 American Legion  223
 Tract AA Public   1142
 Tract BB Public  1227
 Tract EE Cremains Public   32
 Tract F1 Infant Public   185
 Tract F2 Child Public  66
 
   
   

 

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