LOUISVILLE, Ky. — (WHAS11) -- Tucked between new buildings and booming neighborhoods, one important property has been left behind. Eastern Cemetery was chartered the same year as Cave Hill but its problematic past has left it abandoned for decades but now a Metro Councilman’s new call to action hopes to make it more sustainable.

Eastern Cemetery sits on the corner of Broadway and Baxter.

Eastern Cemetery exterior
Shay McAlister, WHAS11 News

"There is something like 138,000 people buried here and only 16,000 graves," Metro Councilman Brandon Coan said.

It's right next famed Cave Hill Cemetery but its story is so much darker.

Coan explained, "There was a whistleblower lawsuit in 1989 by someone who worked here, who blew the top off, but the abuse had been going on for literally 100 years."

People were buried on top of one another.

WHAS11 cameras were there when an archeologist worked for weeks digging up the mass graves.  

The employees who did the digging were criminally charged and the company who owned the cemetery was dissolved.

"When the former company that owned the cemetery and abuse it was dissolved and the personnel all went away the cemetery kind of fell into a state of disrepair where nobody owned it. I don't believe it has a legal owner," Coan said.

The property went untouched for more than 20 years.

Abandoned graves at Eastern Cemetery
Shay McAlister, WHAS11 News

Coan said, "For decades now this is a cemetery that has been neglected, that has lacked permanent, proper ownership and management and it has really depended on the Herculean efforts of a small group of volunteers called the "Friends of Eastern Cemetery.”

"The people who are buried here are the people who built this city and built this community into what it is for us so it’s our thought that the least we can do is honor the promise that was broken to them," Friends of Eastern Cemetery President Brandon Coan said.

Broken figurine on gravestone in Eastern Cemetery
Shay McAlister, WHAS11 News

With their own time, their own money, and their own tools dozens of volunteers go to the cemetery every weekend during spring, summer and fall to work on the landscape.

They mow the grass, trim the trees, clean the headstone and stabilize broken frames.

First starting in March of 2012, they turned the weed woven grounds into something special.

Harpole said, "it started out as I wanted to come out and cut grass and make the place look better, and as time has gone on and we've met a lot of the families that have people buried here, it evolved to, kind of a family."

People of Eastern Cemetery sign
Shay McAlister, WHAS11 News

Proud of the project, the friends still admit,  it's a property that still needs attention.

"We are basically trying to fix what's been damaged, maintain what needs to be maintained, which is a lot of work," Harpole said.

So they, alongside Metro Councilman Coan, are asking for help. They are calling on construction crews, landscapers, or other business owners who think they can help contribute to creating a more sustainable cemetery.

"The main goal and our biggest passion is, find a way that long after we're gone this thing is still going," Harpole said.

If you can help you can get in touch with Councilman Coan brandon.coan@louisvilleky.gov or find Friends of Eastern Cemetery on Facebook.

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