On December 6, the Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation announced that it had received an Oregon Heritage Grant to conduct community-based archaeological research at the area called “Block 14” on cemetery maps, also known as the historic Chinese section of the cemetery.
Specifically, this $20,000 in state funding will support a project to expose remnants of a Chinese altar that was erected at the site in the early 1900s but later was removed or destroyed when the area was built over. Community members and university archaeology students will be invited to participate in the excavation.
“We are so pleased that Oregon Heritage recognized the importance of this work and is supporting it,” said Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation president Helen Ying. “This is an opportunity for the community to literally uncover buried history that has been hidden for decades.”
The excavation work is planned to occur during summer 2024. Findings from the work will help inform the design of a larger memorial being built by Metro at the site.
As early as the 1880s, the southwest corner of Lone Fir Cemetery, labeled “Block 14” on cemetery maps, was known as the cemetery’s Chinese section. Research commissioned by Metro has revealed that more than 2,800 people of Chinese descent were buried at the cemetery, though most of those bodies were later disinterred and repatriated to China. By the early 1900s, an altar and funerary burner stood on the eastern side of the site, allowing mourners to honor the dead according to their cultural traditions.
About Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation
The Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation is an Oregon nonprofit corporation established in 2011 to raise awareness of Lone Fir Cemetery, its history, and its connection to the history of Portland and Oregon. Learn more at lonefir.org.
About Metro’s memorial project at Block 14
Metro Parks and Nature owns and manages Lone Fir Cemetery. Thanks to funding from the voter-approved 2019 parks and nature bond, Metro is working with community to design and build a memorial at Block 14. The memorial will include elements to honor the thousands of Chinese and Chinese American people who were buried at the cemetery, with space for practicing ritual and honoring ancestors. It will also include a welcome area to the cemetery that shares stories of the many marginalized communities whose members are buried at Lone Fir.
Over the last several months, input has been gathered from a series of engagements, and this input has informed two design options for the future memorial garden. Learn more about the project and the site’s history at oregonmetro.gov/lonefirgarden.
About the Oregon Heritage Grant
This competitive grant program is for qualifying organizations, and is offered once per biennium for projects that conserve, develop or interpret Oregon’s heritage. It is a program of the Oregon Heritage Commission. The Commission works to secure, sustain and enhance Oregon’s heritage. The Commission consists of nine members appointed by the governor and nine agency advisors. Members are chosen from state agencies and statewide organizations, and represent diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds. The Commission is part of Oregon Heritage, a division of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. To learn more about the Oregon Heritage Grant or the Oregon Heritage Commission, visit oregonheritage.org.