BREMERTON — A cemetery is a solemn place. But city leaders hope that Ivy Green, the city’s first official cemetery, is also where people will want to immerse themselves in history.
“We want it to be a destination,” said Jeff Elevado, director of city parks. “It’s a who’s who of early Bremerton. A snapshot of history.”
A new entry and recently completed renovations to the Ivy Green gatehouse, funded by a $25,000 state grant, are a better invitation to the community, Elevado said. Just inside a new iron fence lie Benjamin and Angie Harrison, founders of Bremerton’s first hospital. And many decorated veterans, including a recipient of President Abraham Lincoln’s Medal of Honor, are buried inside the gates.
Two new concrete columns now pay homage to the founding towns – Bremerton and its former sister, Charleston – which line Ivy Green, another entry feature paid for by the grant. A gatehouse, also near the entrance which is now used for storage, has been repainted and given a new shingle roof.
The cemetery is 125 years old.
The cemetery began when the new Charleston Cemetery Committee purchased 2 acres of land near what is now 12th Street and Olympic Avenue in 1897. Five years later, the Bremerton City Council purchased 12 acres from the off Naval Avenue. The two cemeteries would eventually become one when Bremerton annexed Charleston in 1927.
Over the years, however, some records have been lost. Some graves are not marked. Elevado’s own grandfather is buried in the cemetery, but due to poor record keeping he does not know where. The city hopes that with better digitization of the archives, everything can be preserved for posterity.
Ivy Green includes a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, one quarter the size of the original at Arlington National Cemetery and one of only 10 replicas in the country. The monument was restored as part of a 2012 community effort involving more than 200 volunteers.
The cemetery is the final resting place of many distinguished combat veterans, including John H. Nibbe, a Civil War hero who received President Abraham Lincoln’s Medal of Honor. Nibbe, a 17-year-old Navy quartermaster who put himself in the line of fire while removing wounded shipmates from a Union combat ship in western Mississippi, said eventually moved to Kitsap and served as captain in the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet ferry days before his death in 1902.
It also houses the remains of 61 veterans who died in a brutal Japanese kamikaze assault on the USS Saratoga in 1945. The ship returned to Bremerton and these 61 were buried in a memorial at the cemetery in 1991.
There is still room for new burials at the cemetery. A casket burial costs around $3,600, although Bremerton residents get a small price reduction and other services can still add to the cost.
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Join reporter Josh Farley for a tour of the Ivy Green Cemetery, 1401 Naval Avenue, from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 19. The event is free and will include a visit to some of its most revered tombs. Questions? Email [email protected].