Histopolis Place-of-the-Day

Histopolis features a different cemetery, town, county or other place every day on the Place-of-The-Day.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Histopolis Place-of-the-Day for Tuesday, November 30, 2010 is the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, District of Columbia.

"Established in 1807, Congressional Cemetery is located in the southeast quadrant of Washington, D.C., overlooking the Anacostia River. The National Cemetery Administration has jurisdiction over 806 burial plots located throughout the larger cemetery, including some of the oldest and most significant historic resources maintained by the agency.

"The original 4.5 acres of Congressional Cemetery was purchased by a group of Washingtonians for a private burial ground. On July 19, 1807, Uriah Tracy of Connecticut became the first congressman buried in the cemetery. In 1812 the group deeded the cemetery to Christ Church as The Washington Parish Burial Ground. Five years later, Christ Church set aside 100 burial lots for members of Congress who died in Washington. From this time forward, the nickname Congressional Cemetery has been used, although in 1849 the official name was changed to Washington Cemetery.

"By the 1820s, Congressional Cemetery was the traditional burial site of senators, congressmen, and other high-ranking federal officials who died in Washington. In 1823, the church donated an additional 300 gravesites for congressional use, and in 1834 Congress appropriated funds for the erection of a keepers house, planting trees, and placing boundary stones. Since 1849, the piecemeal expansion of additional ground led to its present size of approximately 30 acres.

"The National Cemetery Administration is the steward of the most significant collective structures in the cemetery; the unique cenotaphs designed by America's first professional architect, Benjamin Latrobe. Fabricated from Aquia Creek sandstone, the monuments are carved in blocks with a squat base and a conical cap. The inscriptions are on small marble panels affixed to the block. Latrobe's design, characterized by clean, straight lines and a lack of ornamentation, was quite distinct from the typical grave markers of the period, and foreshadowed modern architecture by almost a century. For a period of time, the cenotaphs were whitewashed.

"The term cenotaph is defined as a tomb or monument erected in honor of a person or group of persons whose remains are elsewhere. The original cenotaphs did not remain true to this term, as they mark the burials of senators and congressmen. The date of the first cenotaph installation in Congressional Cemetery is unknown. Latrobe's earliest sketch dates to 1812, but it is unclear if any cenotaphs were extant at this time.

"For many years, congressman and senators who died locally were buried under cenotaphs in Congressional Cemetery. This was largely attributable to the significant cost of transporting the deceased back to their home districts, and to the lack of modern embalming techniques. After 1835, interments of non-local federal officials in the cemetery began to wane, and by the 1855 this practice essentially stopped.

"Despite the change in tradition, monuments continued to be erected in the cemetery, honoring congressmen who died in office and were interred in other cemeteries. These cenotaphs are not distinguished from the true burial markers. Reportedly, the installation of cenotaphs ceased in 1876 when Congressman George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts caustically remarked that being buried beneath one would add new terrors to death...I cannot conceive of an uglier shape to be made out of granite or marble than those cenotaphs now there.

"Of the 169 cenotaphs at Congressional Cemetery, 113 remain true to the term, honoring those who are interred elsewhere. The identical design was used for 56 monuments erected as grave markers.

"Many of the cenotaphs in Congressional Cemetery are in an advanced state of deterioration, due to the poor quality of Aquia Creek Sandstone, and years of neglect. Starting in 2007, the National Cemetery Administration has partnered with the Historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC) of the National Park Service to rehabilitate and stabilize the cenotaphs. HPTC will document, clean and repair the cenotaphs using appropriate methods, with the goal of preserving as much of the original fabric of the monuments as possible.

"Congressional Cemetery, including the lots administered by the National Cemetery Administration, was listed on the National Register for Historic Places in June 1969."

Explore Congressional Cemetery on Histopolis now. If you have a place that you would like to see featured as the Histopolis Place-of-the-Day, contact the webmaster to suggest it.

November 2010

1Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside County, California
2Quincy National Cemetery, Quincy, Quincy Township, Adams County, Illinois
3Fort Custer National Cemetery, Ross Township, Kalamazoo County, Michigan
4Finns Point National Cemetery, Pennsville Township, Salem County, New Jersey
5Fort McPherson National Cemetery, Maxwell Precinct, Lincoln County, Nebraska
6Wood National Cemetery, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
7Mound City National Cemetery, Mound City Precinct, Pulaski County, Illinois
8West Virginia National Cemetery, Taylor County, West Virginia
9Lebanon National Cemetery, Lebanon, Marion County, Kentucky
10Rock Island National Cemetery, Moline Township, Rock Island County, Illinois
11Little Rock National Cemetery, Little Rock, Big Rock Township, Pulaski County, Arkansas
12San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery, Merced County, California
13Marion National Cemetery, Marion, Center Township, Grant County, Indiana
14Port Hudson National Cemetery, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana
15Fort Mitchell National Cemetery, Russell County, Alabama
16Mill Springs National Cemetery, Pulaski County, Kentucky
17Springfield National Cemetery, Springfield, Springfield Township, Greene County, Missouri
18Saint Augustine National Cemetery, Saint Augustine, Saint Johns County, Florida
19Confederate Cemetery, Alton, Alton Township, Madison County, Illinois
20Staunton National Cemetery, Staunton, Staunton City, Virginia
21Soldiers' Lot, Woodland Cemetery, Mound City, Mound City Township, Linn County, Kansas
22Soldiers' Lot, Baxter Springs Cemetery, Spring Valley Township, Cherokee County, Kansas
23Puerto Rico National Cemetery, Bayamón, Hato Tejas Barrio, Bayamón Municipio, Puerto Rico
24Los Angeles National Cemetery, Los Angeles County, California
25Memphis National Cemetery, Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee
26Grafton National Cemetery, Grafton, Taylor County, West Virginia
27Crown Hill Confederate Plot, Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana
28Soldiers' Lot, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Augusta, Kennebec County, Maine
29Fort Bliss National Cemetery, El Paso County, Texas
30Congressional Cemetery, Washington, District of Columbia



Note: The first Place-of-the-Day was in September 2010