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Calvary Cemetery, San Diego, CA

(now a part of Calvary Pioneer Memorial Park, aka Pioneer Park;
aka Catholic Cemetery, aka Mission Hills Cemetery, aka Old Catholic Cemetery)
1501 Washington Place, San Diego, CA 92103

"Dedicated to the Memory of Those Interred Within This Park"

History of
Calvary Cemetery

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The cemetery that is now a part of Calvary Pioneer Memorial Park at 1501 Washington Place in San Diego, California was never commonly called 'Calvary Cemetery.'  Initially it was 'the new Catholic cemetery' (to distinguish it from the earlier Catholic cemetery [now called 'El Campo Santo'] in Old Town) and later simply 'the Catholic cemetery.'  After burials began at Holy Cross Cemetery (early in 1919) in San Diego, it was referred to as 'the old Catholic cemetery.'  Death records, mortuary records and newspaper notices referred to the cemetery in these terms.  The 1939 rededication monument refers to the cemetery as 'Calvary Cemetery.'  Therefore, for the purposes of this web site, the name 'Calvary Cemetery' is used.

The following is a detailed timeline of events
summarizing the history of Calvary Cemetery    

18 Feb 1869 Joseph S. Mannasse purchased a tract of land from The City of San Diego. This tract included the parcel of land that would later be set apart as a Catholic cemetery, but ultimately did not become one.
12 May 1873 Trustee Estudillo, Committee on Cemetery Grounds in Old Town, reported to the San Diego Board of City Trustees that he had found a tract of ten acres in Pueblo Lot 1120. Instructions were issued to have the lot surveyed by the City Engineer.
23 Jun 1873 J. H. Hornbeck and Richard Morrow, The Cemetery Committee, report to the San Diego Board of City Trustees that a tract of land belonging to Mannasse & Schiller, lying east of Old Town in Arnold & Choate's Addition is their selection for cemetery purposes. Prest. Briant and Trustee Estudillo were selected to negotiate for the lands recommended by the committee.
30 Jun 1873 The San Diego Board of City Trustees adopted the recommendation from the Committee on Cemetery in Old Town to purchase a ten acre tract owned by J. S. Mannasse at $50 per acre.
7 Jul 1873 The City of San Diego purchased 10 acres from Joseph S. Mannasse.
27 Oct 1873 The City of San Diego Charter Ordinance No. 46 set apart 10 acres for cemetery purposes; 5 acres were assigned to the Catholic Parish of the Immaculate Conception.
2 Feb 1874 The San Diego Union newspaper reported that "The new Catholic burying ground, on the mesa, was staked off last week, under the direction of Father Ubach."  [However, the location that finally became Calvary Cemetery was not the location staked off in 1874.]
22 Aug 1875 The San Diego Union newspaper reported that "Jack Stewart is at work on the graveyard on the mesa."
1875 The first burial took place in the 'new Catholic cemetery.'
[More information about this to be added here soon.]
4 Jan 1876 Father Antonio D. Ubach wrote a letter to the President and Board of City Trustees of The City of San Diego informing them that the tract of land placed under the direction of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception by Charter Ordinance No. 46 was "so rough and stony as to be impracticable for cemetery purposes." The letter asked for substitution of another tract of land that would be suitable.
7 Feb 1876 The City of San Diego conveyed the property it purchased from J. S. Mannasse on 7 July 1873 back to him.
11 Mar 1876 The City of San Diego received a different 10 acres from Joseph S. Mannasse by an exchange deed.
11 Mar 1876 Charter Ordinance No. 78 was adopted by The City of San Diego. It placed 5 acres of land under the control of the Catholic Parish of the Immaculate Conception. Charter Ordinance No. 46 was repealed and that land was conveyed back to J. S. Mannasse as it was unsuitable and impracticable for cemetery purposes.
20 Oct 1891 M.G. Wheeler [former San Diego County Surveyor] of San Francisco wrote a letter to Joseph S. Mannasse that discussed the legal description of the cemetery property.
3 Apr 1907
12 APR 1909 Ordinance No. 3663 set apart and dedicated certain lands (i.e., "the north five (5) acres") as a public park. This park became known as Mission Hills Park.
1914 Ulysses S. Grant School opens adjacent to the cemetery.
8 May 1918 The Common Council of The City of San Diego approved Ordinance No. 7369 granting permission to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Monterey and Los Angeles to dedicate and set apart certain lands in The City of San Diego for cemetery purposes. The land set apart in this resolution became Holy Cross Cemetery [4470 Hilltop Drive, San Diego, CA 92102].
1918 The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than World War I.  Worldwide, tens of millions of people died from the "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe."  More people were buried at Calvary Cemetery in 1918 than in any other year.


1919 The Catholic church opened Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego.
  Calvary Cemetery fell into disuse and disrepair.
Mar 1925 Resolution No. 33525 of the Common Council of the City of San Diego directed that a proposal for deducting and setting aside a certain portion of Mission Hills Park for public street purposes be placed on the ballot for the 7 April 1925 general election.
7 APR 1925 A general election was held. The majority of electors of the City of San Diego voting in the election passed the proposition to set aside, dedicate and use a portion of Mission Hills Park for public street purposes.
circa 1925 Washington Street [now Washington Place], Portola Place, Pringle Street and neighboring sidewalks were paved.
15 Jun 1931 Reverend John M. Hegarty of St. Joseph's Church wrote to Allen Wright, San Diego City Clerk, that the Right Reverend Bishop "has consented to allow the city council to take charge of the old cemetery with a view to its proper care and up-keep" and "to proceed with the work of fencing and improving the appearance of the cemetery."
1938 The City of San Diego passed an ordinance to sponsor a rehabilitation project (which included building an adobe wall around the cemetery) at the cemetery and agreed to supervise the work provided that the California State Historical Association paid for the materials and federal W.P.A. funds paid for the labor.
2 Dec 1937 Albert Vincent Mayrhofer, President of the California State Historical Association wrote a letter to a Congressman in Washington, D.C. asking him to "put in a word in behalf of P.W.A. [sic] Project No. 1238-930" which "will rehabilitate the Mission Hills Catholic Cemetery." The letter further stated that "when this plot is restored, I have the assurance of His Excellency Bishop Buddy for it's upkeep"
7 Nov 1938 Construction of the adobe wall around Calvary Cemetery began.
26 Nov 1939 Calvary Cemetery was rededicated after completion of the W.P.A. restoration project. A stone dedication monument was placed at the cemetery.
1941 - 1949 A caretaker was employed for grounds maintenance at Calvary Cemetery by The City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department.
22 Jan 1941 The first interment under the supervision of The City of San Diego's Mount Hope Cemetery occurred at Calvary Cemetery.
1942 A set of 10 maps of Calvary Cemetery were created under the direction of The City of San Diego's Superintendent of Cemetery Percy C. Broell.
  The U.S. military maintained an observation base on the cemetery grounds for a time.
  The condition of Calvary Cemetery continued to deteriorate. Vandals toppled and destroyed gravestones and otherwise misused the cemetery.
23 Jan 1948 Ordinance No. 3615 changed the name of the portion of Washington Street between Ibis Street and Pringle Street to Washington Place.
11 Sep 1952 Resolution No. 108309 referred "the matter of the Mission Hills Cemetery" to the City Manager for report.
22 Jan 1957 Carlos Bee, Jesse M. and Viola Dills, and William Byron Rumford introduced Assembly Bill No. 2751 (an act to add Chapter 7 (commencing at Section 8825) to Part 3, Division 8 of the Health and Safety code, relating to private cemeteries) in the Assembly of the State of California.
5 Jun 1957 California Governor, Goodwin J. Knight, approved Assembly Bill No. 2751 that amended the state Health and Safety Code, Section 8825-8829, and established the procedure to permit a city or county to declare a cemetery abandoned and convert it to a pioneer memorial park.
16 Mar 1960 Rose Wilson Mallicoat (b. 28 Mar 1879 - d. 11 Mar 1960) was the last person to be buried at Calvary Cemetery.
1961 The City San Diego's Park and Recreation Department submitted a request for development of Calvary Cemetery as a pioneer memorial park. The project was scheduled for 1966-1967, but was deferred because other projects were considered more urgent.
27 Mar 1968 The Roman Catholic Bishop of San Diego executed a quitclaim deed to all right, title and interest in the real property that included Calvary Cemetery. The quitclaim was delivered with two conditional provisions - 1) the deed could be recorded at such time as the City Council adopted a resolution abandoning the cemetery, and 2) should any person establish a right to interment in Calvary Cemetery, the City would offer such person an equivalent plot in Mount Hope Cemetery or other City owned cemetery.
7 May 1968 Resolution No. 193616 was adopted by the Council of The City of San Diego instructing the City Clerk to publish notice that the City Council intended to consider declaring the cemetery abandoned at its 11 June 1968 meeting.
11 Jun 1968 Resolution No. 193940 was adopted by the Council of The City of San Diego declaring abandonment of Calvary Cemetery as a place for future interment.
15 Aug 1968 The Council of The City of San Diego adopted Resolution No. 194518 authorizing the City Clerk to have the quitclaim deed from The Roman Catholic Bishop of San Diego dated 27 Mar 1968 recorded by the San Diego County Recorder.
Feb 1969 "Calvary Cemetery, Mission Hills" was designated a historic site by The City of San Diego Historical Site Board.
  The architectural firm of Paderewski, Dean & Associates was hired by the San Diego City Council to prepare a general development plan for the park.
23 Jul 1969 The City of San Diego gave written permission to Clemens Granite Works to remove all completely unmarked granite copings and stones.
19 Aug 1969 The only above ground vaults (2) at Calvary Cemetery were opened and the caskets were interred directly below their original place of entombment.
11 Sep 1969 The City Council of The City of San Diego adopted Ordinance No. 10130 repealing Charter Ordinance No. 78 relating to land for cemetery purposes.
18 Dec 1969 The City of San Diego Engineering Department released Specification No. 2451 for The Improvement of Mission Hills Park (W.O. No. 17825; CIP No. 23-440).  The deadline for bids to be received was 20 Jan 1970.
17 Feb 1970 The San Diego City Council awarded a contract for The Improvement of Mission Hills Park (i.e., to convert Calvary Cemetery into a pioneer memorial park) to T. B. Penick & Sons, Inc. by Resolution No. 199061.
Feb-Jun 1970 Recordings, rubbings and photographs were made of almost every gravestone and monument found at Calvary Cemetery. The photographs were subsequently donated by the Hillcrest - Mission Hills Improvement Association to The San Diego Historical Society. [These photographs are viewable on the internet.]
  Calvary Pioneer Memorial Park construction was completed.
30 Sep 1971 The City Council of The City of San Diego adopted Resolution No. 203858 setting aside and dedicating a portion of Calvary Cemetery for a public park named Calvary Pioneer Memorial Park.
23 Jul 1975 Resolution No. 213837 approved the plans and specifications for a Mission Hills Park central memorial.
5 Nov 1975 The City of San Diego Resolution No. 214591 approved the plans and specifications for a Mission Hills Park comfort station.
4 Jan 1977 Assemblyman Michael Wornum introduced California Assembly Bill No. 144, an act to amend Section 8825 of the Health and Safety Code, to permit interment "of any person who is an owner of a plot [in a cemetery that has been declared abandoned] on the date of adoption of the [abandonment] resolution or who otherwise has a right of interment in the cemetery which is vested on such date."
22 Jun 1977 Trepte Brothers Development Company was awarded the contract to build a comfort station [restroom facilities] at Mission Hills Park by Resolution No. 218641.
Sep 1977 A central memorial of bronze plaques, designed by landscape architect John Davidson, was constructed at the park.
Nov 1977 Construction of the restroom facility at the park was completed.
11 Dec 1977 Calvary Pioneer Memorial Park was dedicated in a public ceremony at the park.
9 Feb 1988

A bulldozer was used to bury many gravestones that had been taken from Calvary Cemetery in 1970. They were buried in an isolated area on the property of The City of San Diego's Mount Hope Cemetery.

  As a memorial, a small group of the headstones (that had been taken from Calvary Cemetery in 1970) were set in concrete near the site of the buried gravestones at Mount Hope Cemetery.
22 Feb 2000 The City Council of The City of San Diego adopted Ordinance Number O-18767 (New Series) - An ordinance setting aside and dedicating city owned land, known as "Mission Hills Park / Calvary Pioneer Park" in the city of San Diego, California, for a public park.

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Calvary Cemetery, San Diego, CA

Marna L. Clemons
(858) 486-6099

Created April 2004
Last Revision -
Wednesday, 04-Jan-2017 00:57:52 MST
© 2004-2017  Marna L. Clemons
All rights reserved.