Established in 1869 to accommodate San Diego’s growing population, this cemetery was located three miles from the city as a precaution against disease and contamination. The cemetery expanded to 189 acres by 1874, absorbing the burial grounds of various ethnic communities. Land sales and divisions have, however, reduced its size to 110 acres, including the separation of the adjoining nine-acre Home of Peace Cemetery in 1910. A section reserved for veterans was set aside in 1973.
More than 76,000 graves are laid out across a rolling lawn on both a north-south and east-west axis. Stone grave markers, some upright and others flat, in the northern portion of the cemetery follow straight, parallel lines, while those to the south are sited in a curvilinear pattern set by the cemetery’s asphalt lanes. Native trees, including eucalyptus, palm, and pepper trees, line the roadways and are interspersed throughout the grounds. Edged with Italian cypress trees, a six-acre potter’s field in the northeast was built in 1875 and reserved for the indigent until 2007. Overlooking this barren section is “Our Lady of Shoes,” a sculpture of the Virgin Mary gifted to San Diego in 1999 by its sister city, Leon, Mexico. The San Diego trolley’s orange line, built in 1986 over the defunct San Diego and Arizona railroad, bisects the cemetery. The cemetery’s central thoroughfare, Horton Avenue, runs southwest from the main Market Street entrance, crossing the trolley line before intersecting with the south entrance drive. Circuitous lanes branch off from the avenue in various directions.