It’s easy to overlook the plot – a flat gravel lot that seems incongruous with the rest of the tree-lined cemetery. However, in the late 19th into the early 20th century, more than 1,131 Chinese people were buried there.
Even earlier, it is believed that 183 patients of the Oregon Hospital for the Insane, the state’s first psychiatric hospital, were laid to rest in various areas of Lone Fir Cemetery. The hospital was just a few blocks away at Southeast 12th Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard. It operated from 1862 to 1883, when patients were transferred to the new state hospital in Salem.
Over time the remains of approximately 800 Chinese people buried at the site were disinterred and sent to China for reburial. In 1952 Multnomah County, which owned Lone Fir, built the two-story Morrison Building on the site. Fifty years passed. By then the county had transferred ownership of the cemetery to Metro, but retained the southwest corner of the cemetery. It planned to demolish the Morrison Building and sell the land for development.
In 2004 the Buckman Neighborhood Association, Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery and the Oregon Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association informed the county that they believed the site still contained human remains. They were correct. Accordingly, the building was demolished without disturbing potential remaining gravesites, and the property was deeded to Metro in 2007, reconnecting it to the cemetery.
In 2007, Lone Fir Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2008, the first master plan for the cemetery was complete. The plan includes a memorial garden to honor the people who were buried there.
The Metro Council intends to formally adopt a name for the site through a resolution after a period of community engagement, with the goal of choosing a name that honors the site’s history and legacy.
Funding for the project comes from Metro’s 2019 parks and nature bond measure, and project staff are embarking on community engagement and project design ahead of construction.