Congressional Cemetery is a tract of about thirty acres of ground on the north bank of the Anacostia River just northeast of Pennsylvania Avenue at Barney Circle, S. E. The main entrance to the cemetery is at 1801 E Street, S. E., at the Superintendent's lodge. Most of the cemetery is on gently sloping ground which declines sharply on the southern boundaries near the banks of the Anacostia. There are a large number of shade trees scattered throughout the cemetery. The cemetery's streets or avenues, Congress, Tingey, Henderson, Ingle, Naylor, Tucker, Arnold, Pinkney, Prout, Richards, and Whittingham, are named after those who were important to the development of the cemetery or Christ Church.
The original plot of the cemetery, east and south of the Superintendent's lodge, contains many of the oldest and most interesting graves. Of particular note are the two large groupings of cenotaphs, one on the east side of the square, and one on the west. These cenotaphs, reportedly designed by Benjamin Latrobe, consist of square sandstone blocks on sandstone slabs and surmounted by short segments of columns topped with a squat cone. A number of these cenotaphs are in a deteriorated condition due to the poor quality of the sandstone used.
Although privately owned by Christ Church, Congressional Cemetery was the first true National Cemetery in the U. S. and is perhaps still the only truly National Cemetery due to the fact that Arlington and other national cemeteries are principally reserved for military dead. From the time of its establishment in 1807 until the end of the Civil War, three Presidents, two Vice Presidents, seventy-five Senators and Representatives, as well as many high-ranking executive, judicial and military officers and American Indians were interred in Congressional Cemetery. There are perhaps more early historical figures buried within this "American Westminster Abbey" than in any other cemetery in the country.
The original four and one-half acre tract of Congressional Cemetery was purchased from the Government for $200 on April 4, 1807 as a private burial ground. On March 30, 1812, several years after Christ Church was built, Ingle, one of the buyers, deeded this tract to the church under the name of "The Washington Parish Burial Ground." On May 30, 1849, the vestry changed the name to "Washington Cemetery" which is its correct name today, although it has long been known as Congressional Cemetery because of its associations with the National Legislature.
DC designation: November 8, 1964
National Register listing: June 23, 1969