Monthly Archives: February 2010

Comet Lodge Cemetery: Limbo Part II

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Part II: From 1938 to present day  

Woodmen of the World memorial

In 1938, Odd Fellow members still owning cemetery land parcels fell behind in property tax payments. The county foreclosed and became, whether through design or accident, the new owner of Comet Lodge Cemetery. For the next fifteen years, questions over what was purchased, restoration permissions, and street widening ordinances, drifted back and forth between the city treasurer, council, and local improvement societies.  

Eventually, official non-action moved the questions to the back burner and the county seemingly forgot that it ever owned a cemetery. Comet Lodge Cemetery became both a home for transients and a byword for ‘eyesore’ for several more decades.  

A circle of headstone bases

 

Almost 100 years after its official Odd Fellows designation, new attempts to build on cemetery grounds ignited a public fury. Preservation Seattle noted that in 1987, a local resident began clearing the site in what appeared to be a simple restoration effort. That illusion quickly vanished.  

“When he began bulldozing the property, and the graves of the 200 or so individuals buried there, the real plans became vividly clear [and] quirkier than anyone realized. What initially looked like restoration activity was really part of the man’s life-long dream to live on a cemetery. He intended to build his house there.”  

Another report offers more details.  

A group called Elysian Fields claiming ownership of Comet Lodge Cemetery, decided to build a “caretakers cottage” on the site and plant foodstuffs for the local community. By the time the Washington State Cemetery Board brought in an order to cease and desist, the majority of headstones had been bulldozed to the south end of the property.”  

Since that time, twenty restoration attempts for Comet Lodge have been made. All have failed. Even HistoryLink’s 2009 work only managed to relocate twelve headstones while the remaining markers are little more than broken bits and pieces. Out of the hundreds of missing headstones, only six remain in their original plots.  

A serene view

 

Today, King County and the Washington State Cemetery Association retain custodial responsibility of the site. Only a few aesthetically placed headstones remain to tell passers-by of its original purpose and Comet Lodge now seems more a park than a cemetery. However, for one resident living near the old Baby Land portion, the calm appearance will never deceive. The decades-old scandal, plus certain inexplicable activities within her house, have rendered the property un-saleable.  

Online sources:  

City and County records of Comet Lodge destruction  

These are matters of grave importance. PDF, pp, 4, 16  

No stone unturned: One man’s lonely battle to save the graveyard City Hall would rather forget  

Washington State law concerning abandoned cemeteries  

Interment.net: Cemetery records for Comet Lodge  

Newspapers:  

• Seattle Post Intelligencer: “A grave commentary on an old cemetery.” October 16, 1997.  

• Seattle Times: “New life for an old cemetery: Project organizers want to turn it into an horticultural park.” September 25, 1985.  

• Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Cemetery slated to make a resurrection: Comet Lodge site will be turned into a memorial park.” June 17, 1999.  

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Comet Lodge Cemetery: A century in limbo

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Part I: From the beginning to 1931 

An inscrutable reminder

 

Maybe it was the greed or a need to sweep political embarrassment under the proverbial rug. Perhaps it’s simply an old Indian curse on those foolish enough to disturb a sacred burial site. Whatever the reason, this cemetery has suffered a century’s worth of indignities including abandonment, foreclosure, bulldozing, and housing development. And what began as a five acre cemetery plot, now remains a mere 2.3 acre knoll languishing between a multitude of single family homes. 

It’s a story almost too strange to be true. 

Comet Lodge Cemetery was a Duwamish Indian burial site long before actual land ownership passed to the International Order of Odd Fellows in 1895. Offering fine hilltop views of south Seattle, it seemed a pleasant resting place for those early settlers such as Emma Rigby, one of area’s first female doctors. 

But peace reigned for only twelve years. 

An early German settler

 

In 1905, a booming population, plus a need for more residential housing tract land, caused the City of Seattle to move 700+ bodies from the county pauper’s cemetery to an undisclosed location in south Seattle. No transfer records seem to exist but it’s generally assumed the new burial location was the Odd Fellows Cemetery as the site became known as the Georgetown Potters’ Field. 

Over the next two decades, the Odd Fellows Council began selling off specific parcels to individual members who then re-sold the plots, regardless of whether they were occupied. One local enthusiast told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that his master’s thesis research had revealed the cemetery had even been split in half in 1908 to accommodate the building of eleven new homes. 

In 1927, land records show the City of Seattle purchasing portions of “Baby Land”, a section of the cemetery devoted specifically to young children and infants. No records of disinterment can be found but this portion was later zoned and developed for residential housing. 

The Odd Fellows Council finally dissolved in 1931, abandoning cemetery upkeep responsibilities to the families of those buried at the site. Initial attempts were made to keep the cemetery cleared but sheer size proved overwhelming. The cemetery fell into disrepair and headstones became trapped in a mass of blackberry bramble overgrowth. 

Coming up next. Part II: 1938 to present day

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Snapshots: The Spanish Mason

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Check out all the relief carvings behind the statue (ladder, shovel, compass, level, etc.). If this isn’t an example of a Mason, then I don’t know what is.

Cementiri de l'Est, Barcelona

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Barcelona’s Roman past

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At the height of its power, the Roman Empire ringed the Mediterranean, influencing any number of conquered peoples with its judicial, political and artistic achievements. Remnants of these influences, such as aqueducts, mosaics or protective walls, can still be seen throughout Europe and the U.K.

While the Romans may not have considered Barcelona, Spain, as important a site as say, Tarragon (a well-preserved portside city to the southeast), visitors can still see the interesting bits and pieces the empire left behind.

More specifically, are the tombs located in the city’s Barri Gotic section. Romans typically buried their dead in mausoleums or in a necropolis outside city walls, but as modern-day Barcelona expanded beyond its ancient boundaries, these relics of a distant past unexpectedly became an integral part of a contemporary neighborhood.

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Snapshots: The mailman

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Lakeview Cemetery

 

Martin W. Hubbard was the first postmaster of Hubbard from 1850 – 1887. 

Hubbard started his work career as a logger before becoming the postmaster. Local mail was distributed from his home and any mail heading to Seattle, was rowed across Lake Washington. Interestingly enough, research has shown that most loggers at that time never knew how to swim. 

In 1886, the town was renamed Juanita. 

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Illegible headstones? There’s an app for that

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Popular consensus seems to be that cell phones are far too prevalent in daily life. Tweeting, texting, music, surfing, games – the list is endless. Some might even say phones have become more toy than tool.

Aside from basic functions and some photo capabilities, it’s certainly not much help in old graveyards, right? Well, if John Bottorff has anything to do about it, cell phones might become a genealogist’s best friend.

Bottorff, the owner of Objecs, LLC, has developed three, cell-phone readable tablets suitable for both the new and old, illegible gravestones. Called the Personal Rosetta Stone, these tablets store selected personal data via RFID technology and are mounted on the gravestone. By touching the stone with an NFC-RFID enabled cell phone, genealogical information is then uploaded to the viewer screen. Continue reading

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