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Congressional Cemetery

Congressional Cemetery with dog walking couple

History

For the first one hundred years of its existence, Congressional Cemetery was used for interring members of Congress who died in Washington and many of their graves where marked with sandstone cenotaphs designed by architect Benjamin Latrobe. Other cenotaphs were erected by Congress to memorialize congressman who died in office but are buried elsewhere.

By the Victorian period, Congressional Cemetery was the place for a leisurely Sunday afternoon picnic and walk, and was served by a trolley line that ran to Barney’s Circle located at its southwest corner. Hence, it had the sociological position of a community-meeting place. The cool lawn shaded by hundreds of trees, coupled with breezes from the Anacostia River, offered respite from the heat of Washington in a time well before air conditioning. But today, more than 100 years later, and haven fallen into disrepair, few citizens—tourists or otherwise—would view Congressional as a tourist destination. The only Sunday strollers are dogwalkers who pay a fee each year to be able to walk their dogs on the cemetery grounds.

Tradition

In my estimation, the most famous person buried at Congressional is John Philip Sousa. Sousa’s gravesite is one of the better-maintained sites at Congressional, although it could use some sprucing up. It is the epicenter of the annual Marine Corps Band concert held each November 6th to honor his birthday (although I did not see this mentioned on the 2010 event's calendar. To get a sense of the festivities, you can view a small video presentation I put together at http://www.motherlindas.com/at_the_movies_with_mother_linda.htm

The Sousa Trail Tour

I have put together a walking/driving tour of what I call "The Sousa Trail." It starts at Sousa's birthplace in SE DC, past the Marine Barracks, where he worked at the height of his career and then on to his burial site at Congressional Cemetery about 10 blocks east (you might want to hop in your car at this point). Click on the following link to download a PDF of my Sousa Trail map.

Address

Historic Congressional Cemetery
1801 E Street, Southeast
Washington, D.C. 20003
(202) 543-0539

www.congressionalcemetery.org