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Congressional Cemetery, 1801 E Street, Southeast, Washington, District of Columbia, DC


Congressional Cemetery, 1801 E Street, Southeast, Washington, District of Columbia, DC



Latrobe Cenotaphs in Congressional Cemetery previously documented as HABS DC-424.
Significance: Washington Parish Burial Ground was created in 1807 by a private corporation of citizens, intent on creating a cemetery in the tradition of churchyard burial grounds, and at the same time acting in the name of the public good of the federal district's inhabitants. Another layer of the site's history relates to its rapidly developed ties to the federal government. Congressmen were routinely buried here and monuments erected for them after a design by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Surveyor of Public Works for the nation's capital. The government regularly gave funds to this cemetery, which came to be known as the National Burying Ground or more commonly the Congressional Cemetery. These close ties between the cemetery and the federal city were reiterated by the landscape. The cemetery was connected by a graded and graveled direct route to the Capitol, and much of its grounds occupied by federally owned plots. While it ostensibly offered the civic service of burial to all residents of the capital, this cemetery was founded by an elite group who consciously created an upper-class environment within its bounds. The landscape echoed the strata of Washington society, with the wealthy buying strategically located family plots, and individual burial sites relegated to the site's outer edges. Indigents, African-Americans and 'infidels' were given grave sites outside the cemetery's walls. The landscape of Congressional Cemetery still reflects the form of these social structures. Through its congressional monuments, physical link to the Capitol, and socially-stratified organization, the cemetery's landscape of death gave form to the nineteenth century social and moral order of the nation's capital. The landscape of Congressional Cemetery also reflects the nation's progression of cemetery development. It retains traces of its original burial-ground form, the urban grid over which the cemetery was laid out, and the picturesque influence of the rural cemetery movement. Its site, now surrounded by the urban fabric of Capitol Hill, gradually slopes down toward the banks of the Anacostia River, combining urban and rural vistas throughout just as it melds urban and rural cemetery models. The final addition of land to the cemetery bears the mark of the lawn cemetery movement, bringing the form of the cemetery into the fashions of the later nineteenth century. While the placement of the burials in Congressional Cemetery echoes the society of Washington, DC, its landscape bears the marks of the nation's developing standards of cemetery design. Truly the project of many local minds, and a highly original fusion of vernacular tradition with the individual goals of a group of educated and powerful men, this cemetery holds a unique place in the history of cemetery design and within the development of the urban landscape of the nation's capital.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N7
Survey number: HALS DC-1
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 69000292





Historic American Landscapes Survey, creator


Washington, District of Columbia, United States38.88265, -76.97890
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