This linear cemetery evolved from an eight-acre burial ground opened in 1879 to serve the San Diego Barracks, a U.S. Army outpost known earlier as the New San Diego Depot. Originally part of a 1,000-acre military reservation, the cemetery was designated one of seven new national cemeteries during the interwar period. Grading, road construction, and utility connections in the southern portion were funded by the Works Progress Administration and completed by 1938. Several additional rectangular parcels extended the cemetery to the north and south, adding approximately 65 acres by 1965.
Elevated 348 feet above sea level, this cemetery encompasses 82 ridgetop acres that are bisected by Cabrillo Memorial Drive. A columbarium wall, two-thirds of a mile long, runs along the road’s western edge. Sited at the center of Point Loma Peninsula just north of the Cabrillo National Monument, the cemetery’s extensive manicured lawns overlook San Diego Bay. The lawns are covered by precise rows of equidistantly spaced marble headstones and are interspersed with more than 500 trees. These include juniper, pine, palm, elm, and eucalyptus trees, most of which were planted in the 1950s. Built in 1936 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, the cemetery’s earliest buildings are clustered south of a concrete rostrum that faces the main entrance. A new administrative building was built in 1957 directly west of the main entrance. The landscape was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016 as part of a multiple property listing of interwar cemeteries around the country.