A Protestant Episcopal church, the Washington National Cathedral has a distinct ecumenical character, as it functions as the national church called for in the 1792 Plan of the Federal City. Beginning construction in 1907, the stone, English neo-Gothic-style building features a medieval structural system with masonry load-bearing walls and flying buttresses, combined with modern construction methods and interior systems for a unique combination of old and new. The richly decorated cathedral is located in an informally planned and landscaped fifty-seven-acre close, which contains auxiliary buildings housing for the educational institutions of the Cathedral Foundation.
The three architects of the Cathedral found their main source of inspiration in the late-fourteenth-century English Decorative Gothic style, not only are decorative features of the style employed, but also structural features.
Since its construction, Washington National Cathedral has seen many significant services connected to its national profile. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached his final Sunday sermon from the Cathedral’s pulpit, just days before his assassination in 1968. The state funerals for Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush have been held in the church, as well as memorial services for Warren G. Harding, William H. Taft, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S. Truman, and Richard Nixon.
The Cathedral recently went under renovation, following significant damage sustained in the earthquake of 2011.
DC Inventory: March 7, 1968
National Register: May 3, 1974