Sara Sims Memorial Gardens

Sara Sims Memorial Gardens

In 1954, the City Commission set up a committee to find a new location for a cemetery for the African-American community as the existing facilities were becoming overcrowded1. In 1955, the committee negotiated an agreement for the burial of African-Americans in the Lincoln Memorial Gardens (Palm Beach Memorial Park) in Lantana2; however, this agreement fell through at the end of the year when it was tentatively agreed to plan for a cemetery in Boynton3.

In 1957, a plat for the new cemetery was being prepared by Brockway, Weber & Brockway, Engineers, of West Palm Beach and the City Commission agreed that the name of the cemetery should be chosen by the African-American community4. Three potential names for the new cemetery were suggested: Sara Sims Memorial Gardens, Cherry Hills Memorial Gardens, and Roberts Memorial Gardens5. The community chose to name it in honor of Sara Sims, a well-known community activist who helped found the St. John Missionary Baptist Church in 1908. Sara Sims is buried in the cemetery. The final plat for the cemetery was accepted by City Commission in September, 19576.
Sarah Sims Memorial Gardens PlatFinal Plat (September 1957)

Records indicate the first burial took place in 1958. There are many more burials in the cemetery than there are grave markers. In some instances, markers were not installed and, in others, markers made from degradable material such as wood have decayed over time. Indentations in the ground indicate where some of the unmarked graves may be located.

Grave marker with bright color tile mosaicGrave marker with decorative tile mosaic
The older graves are marked with large concrete slabs while the more recent ones are identified by smaller plaques made from a variety of materials. The most ornate slab is decorated with a mosaic of brightly colored broken tiles. This design is a fine example of a “folk grave marker” that reflects the skill and creativity of the maker. It is the only slab decorated in this style in the city.

Also of interest is the slab with four metal loops embedded on the surface shown in the photo below. It is likely that ropes or bars were inserted into the loops to allow placement of the slab over the grave.

Slab with four metal loopsSlab with four metal loops

Grave with concrete slabGrave with concrete slab

  • 1. City Commission Minutes, September 7, 1954
  • 2. City Commission Minutes, February 21, 1955 & October 3, 1955
  • 3. City Commission Minutes, December 19, 1955
  • 4. City Commission Minutes, July 16, 1957
  • 5. City Commission Special Meeting Minutes, July 22, 1957
  • 6. City Commission Minutes, September 3, 1957