Saturday, August 23, 2014

Powell Grove Pioneer Cemetery

The intersection of NE 122nd and Sandy resembles a freeway interchange, with an overpass and cloverleaf ramps between the two streets. If you look closely, inside the curve of one of these ramps is a collection of headstones. This is the tiny one-acre Powell Grove Pioneer Cemetery, which was here first, dating all the way back to 1848. For the first century or so of its existence the surrounding area was rural, and it only appeared in the paper when a new resident arrived.

In December 1949, after a century as a privately run cemetery, relatives of people buried here asked the county to take over maintenance. Undoubtedly this seemed like a great idea at the time, but county ownership may have paved the way for a lengthy court battle that began a few years later.

In 1953, moving to suburbia was the hot new trend, and everyone's favorite downtown stores decided to follow. Fred Meyer proposed a new store at 122nd & Sandy, their first venture outside the downtown core. The intersection was already a busy one, and the announcement envisioned "modernizing" it to provide better access to the new store. The paper described the proposal as the "first decentralization by a major downtown department store", which seems to indicate there weren't any Meier & Frank stores outside downtown then, nor any branches of the other long-vanished department stores that once graced downtown.

Or it would have been the first such store if the plan had gone through quickly. However discussions dragged on for a few years as the parties tried to work out the details, including road access to the store site. In 1957 the county announced a plan to move the cemetery elsewhere, to make room for a nice modern freeway-style intersection: "Dead Asked to Move Over - Cemetery In Way of Plan to Expedite Traffic". Relatives of the deceased weren't so keen on the idea, and a courtroom battle ensued over the next few years. An August 1960 article about needed repairs at the cemetery mentions the ongoing court fight, as well as a new proposal to include the cemetery inside one of the cloverleaf ramps, which is what eventually ended up happening.

It didn't happen immediately, though. The court battle continued, and in November 1961 the county and local boosters tentatively won the fight to move the cemetery elsewhere. Several months after that, an article referred to the "present site" of the cemetery, indicating nothing had changed at that point, and then... nothing. It's as if they went to all the trouble to win the right to dig people up and move them, and then dropped the matter without actually going through with it. I can't even find any references saying they decided not to do it after all; they just stopped talking about it, and that was the end of the matter.

A few of you longtime Gentle Reader(s) might remember this photo from another post back in 2008, before I'd really gotten this blogging-about-places-and-things schtick down properly. Who am I kidding, nobody remembers trivial stuff like that. It's just that somehow it feels like I should disclose it when I reuse an old photo for a new post. I'm not sure why; it just feels more sort of integrity-esque this way.

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