Evergreen Cemetery is an expansive 220-acre burial place with unique historical ties to the city of Colorado Springs. More than 90 thousand mausoleums, statues and headstones pay homage to pioneers who migrated to the area in the mid- to late 1800s. Notable settlers include early Western explorers, Union and Confederate soldiers, and thousands who migrated to the region to make millions from the Colorado gold rush. It is a welcoming space to stroll and ponder what life must have been like for those who lived there in earlier days.
General William Jackson Palmer, Quaker, American Civil War hero, and railroad tycoon founded Colorado Springs in 1871. Palmer wanted to create a sophisticated resort-like town, where those ill with tuberculosis could travel by train to benefit from nearby hot springs. By the turn of the century, Colorado Springs became one of the most a desirable vacation destinations in the United States.
The town is nestled in the foothills of Pikes Peak, the highest summit of the southern front range of the Rocky Mountains in North America at 14,115 feet. Palmer founded this cemetery on a high bluff, replacing growing cemeteries near his train stations. He did not want visitors to readily see those upon arrival, as he felt the site of death would make them shy away from visiting the town known for its health benefits. He was later buried in Evergreen Cemetery in 1909 with only a boulder from his beloved Pikes Peak to mark the grave.
Those who once made millions in the mining years now rest in grandiose mausoleums that adorn the grounds. Brothers who were co-creators of Alexander Film Company, once considered the largest advertising film company in the world, were buried there in the family plot. Prominent artists, including Artus Van Briggle, a ceramic designer whose sculptured work still adorns museums today, also lies in a grave on the hillside at Evergreen. Other famous local artists buried there include various poets, musicians, actors and writers.
Beyond the dignitaries, artists, and philanthropists, those who could not afford a burial were laid to rest in an area known as pauper’s field. Many were not afforded a headstone or marker for their grave, so a monument was later installed to honor their memories. It is estimated that 1200-1400 people, including children, are buried on that rolling hillside.
Rows of headstones marking the graves of soldiers dating as far back as the Civil War lie prominently in the middle of Evergreen Cemetery. The Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization comprised of veterans who served in that war, later installed a cannon to memorialize the masses buried there. Each year since 2002, a special Memorial Day commemoration is held, including a display of historic re-enactments by the Sons of the American Revolution.
The cemetery has been owned by the city of Colorado Springs since 1875 and remains a cornerstone of the community today. Local residents often utilize these grounds much like a park, admiring the lush greens and majestic trees. There is an ongoing volunteer effort to restore rose bushes that once adorned trellises over thousands of gravesites between 1940-1970. It became a tradition for families to plant the bushes over their families’ headstones. A majority of trellises have since fallen into disrepair or have been removed.
In honor of its long and rich history, Evergreen Cemetery was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. It is one of 73,212 cemeteries registered as such. Hundreds of burials still take place annually at the historic cemetery.