Congressional Cemetery

Congressional Cemetery
Congressional Cemetery
Congressional Cemetery 2009 (4).jpg
Year established April 4, 1807
Country United States
Location Washington, DC
Coordinates 38°52′52″N 76°58′38″W / 38.88111°N 76.97722°W / 38.88111; -76.97722
Type Private
Owned by Christ Church
Size 35.75 acres (14 ha)
Website Official Site
Find a Grave Findagrave
Congressional Cemetery
Congressional Cemetery is located in Washington, D.C.
Location: 1801 E St., SE., Washington, District of Columbia
Coordinates: 38°52′52″N 76°58′38″W / 38.88111°N 76.97722°W / 38.88111; -76.97722Coordinates: 38°52′52″N 76°58′38″W / 38.88111°N 76.97722°W / 38.88111; -76.97722
Area: 30 acres (120,000 m2)
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#:


Significant dates
Added to NRHP: June 23, 1969
Designated NHL: June 14, 2011

The Congressional Cemetery is a historic cemetery located at 1801 E Street, SE, in Washington, D.C., on the west bank of the Anacostia River. It is the final resting place of thousands of individuals who helped form the nation and the city of Washington in the early 19th century. Many members of the U.S. Congress who died while Congress was in session are interred at Congressional. Other burials include the early landowners and speculators, the builders and architects of the great buildings of Washington, native American diplomats, mayors of Washington, and hundreds of Civil War veterans. Nineteenth-century Washington, D.C. families unaffiliated with the federal government have also had graves and tombs at the cemetery. In all there is one Vice-President, one Supreme Court Justice, six Cabinet Members, 19 Senators and 71 Representatives - including a former Speaker of the House, buried there; as well as one American Indian chief and veterans of every American war.[2] The cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 23, 1969 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011.[3]


Founding and history

Latrobe Cenotaphs

The Congressional Cemetery was first established by private citizens in 1807 and later given over to Christ Church, which gave it the name Washington Parish Burial Ground. By 1817 sites were set aside for government legislators and officials; this includes cenotaphs for many legislators buried elsewhere. The cenotaphs were designed by Benjamin Latrobe. The Latrobe design consists of a large square block with recessed panels set on a wider plinth and surmounted by a conical point. The design is considered a rare and possibly unique example of Visionary architecture in the United States, of the kind practiced by the 18th-century French visionary architects Etienne-Louis Boullée and Claude Nicolas Ledoux.[citation needed]

The original cemetery was located on block 1115 on E Street between 18th and 19th Streets Southeast in 1808. In 1849, it doubled in size by acquiring the block to its south, 1116. In 1853, it expanded to the east on blocks 1130, 1148 and 1149 between F and G Streets Southeast. In 1853-53, the cemetery expanded to the west by acquiring block 1104, between 17th Street and 18th Streets Southeast. In 1858, the cemetery acquired block 1105 and Reservation 13. In 1859, it added blocks 1105 and 1123. Finally, the cemetery reached its current extent of 35.75 acres by growing south to Water Street Southeast with blocks 1106 and 1117 in 1869.[4] Eventually the land to the south of the cemetery was transferred to the National Park Service although the access road to the RFK Stadium Parking Lot is administered by the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission. In the 1950s, it appeared that the southeast corner of the cemetery would become a part of the right of way for the Southeast-Southwest Freeway. However, protracted environmental litigation halted construction at Pennsylvania Avenue, with the dead end of the freeway being connected by a temporary road to the RFK Parking Lot and to 17th Street Southeast at the southwest corner of the cemetery.

The cemetery is still owned by Christ Church but is now managed by the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery (APHCC). In recent years, Congressional has witnessed a turnaround in its situation. Where the grass was unmowed in 2000, the board now has established an endowment fund that will maintain the lawn in perpetuity.[5] The Association hosts over 500 volunteers each year working on a wide variety of projects: from planting bulbs to resetting tombstones to pruning trees, doing research, and writing a newsletter.

In the early 2000s, after a series of mysterious phone calls to the cemetery, it was discovered that in the 1970s someone had broken into the Wirt Tomb at the cemetery and had stolen William Wirt's skull. After the skull was recovered from the house of a historical memorabilia collector, it spent time in D.C. Council member Jim Graham's office while he tried to get it returned to its rightful crypt. Finally in 2005 investigators from the Smithsonian Institution were able to determine the skull, which had gold block letters saying "Hon. Wm. Wirt" painted on it, was indeed his and had it returned.[6]


The cemetery is administered by the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery, which is a non-profit corporation headed by a 15 member Board of Directors. The Association has five full time employees and over 500 volunteers.[7] Its mission is:


In 2009, the Association retained the Oehme, van Sweden & Associates to develop a new landscape plan.[8]

K-9 Corps

Congressional Cemetery is also known for allowing members of the APHCC to walk dogs off-leash on the cemetery grounds. In addition to their annual membership dues, K-9 Corps members pay an additional annual fee for the privilege of walking their dogs in one of Washington's great open spaces. K-9 Corps members provide about one-third of Congressional Cemetery's operating income. Dog walkers follow a set of rules and regulations and provide valuable volunteer time to restore and beautify this historic place.[9]

The K-9 Corps program is recognized as providing the impetus for the revitalization of Congressional Cemetery, which had fallen into tremendous disrepair and neglect prior to the program's creation.[10] In 2008, the Association restricted K-9 membership, placing restrictions on dogwalkers as the program became more popular.[11] The K-9 Corps program has been nationally recognized for creative use of urban green space.

Notable interments

Temporary Interments

In addition, the Congressional Cemetery contains a cenotaph for any member of Congress who died in office between 1833 and 1870 and was interred elsewhere.

See also

External links


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  2. ^ "Congressional Cemetery Website". 
  3. ^ "National Register of Historic Places listings for June 24, 2011". National Park Service. June 24, 2011. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Acquisition of the Squares". Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery. 2011-01-14. 
  5. ^ "Fall 2007 Heritage Gazette Newsletter". 
  6. ^ Carlson, Peter. "Tale From the Crypt". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "2009 Annual Report". Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery. 2011-01-14. p. 2. 
  8. ^ "2009 Annual Report". Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery. 2011-01-14. p. 10. 
  9. ^ "Cemetery Dogs". 
  10. ^ Holeywell, Ryan (December 22, 2006). "Congressional Cemetery's Slow Resurrection". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Dogwalking Program Overview". 

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