Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Tree Spots: Congressional Cemetery

Our final Summer Tree Spot is a little different from the first five in the series. True, a cemetery might not be your top pick for a place to picnic. But loaded with history and decorated with various tree species, Congressional Cemetery makes the cut for must-see sites in the District.

Cherry trees bloom behind headstones in March

Located at 1801 E Street Southeast in Ward 6, the Historic Congressional Cemetery spans over 35 acres of land. 14,000 headstones—some extravagant, some old and surprisingly simple—and a remarkable September 11 memorial grove are just a couple reasons to visit the cemetery. Within five years of its founding in 1807, Congressional Cemetery became the resting place for 13 congressmen and two vice presidents. Today it is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to quite a few late Americans who played a major role in shaping our nation. Among them are:
  • Elbridge Gerry, Vice President to James Madison and signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI from 1924 until 1935
  • American composer John Philip Sousa, known for his famous marches including “Stars and Stripes Forever”
  • Leonard Matlovich, Vietnam War veteran and gay rights activist—the powerful quote on his headstone alone justifies a trip to the cemetery
  • Pushmataha, chief of the Choctaw nation in the early 1800s and negotiator of several land treaties with the United States
  • Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood, woman suffragist and the first female attorney permitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court

A young sweetgum buds on Congressional Cemetery grounds during a Community Tree Planting event in March.

A complete interment index can be found here on the Association for the Preservation of the Historic Congressional Cemetery’s website. You can also print themed walking tours or enjoy a docent-led tour offered every Saturday at 11 a.m. through October.

Don’t forget to observe the September 11 memorial grove during your visit. The grove is located on the west side of the cemetery, near 17th Street SE. Lummi healing poles that travelled 4,500 miles from Washington State and were blessed by 13 Indian tribes across the country make the memorial grove particularly special. Casey Trees donated the grove’s 148 trees in 2004. Most of the commemorative trees are hornbeams and Chinese elms, though there are several American witchhazel trees, galaxy magnolia, American elms, and okame cherry trees as well.

The Lummi Healing Poles stand among memorial grove's long line of trees. Photo credit: Mr. T in DC
For more information on upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, a dog-walking program and more, visit the website for the Association for the Preservation of the Historic Congressional Cemetery. You can also learn about the individual trees by checking out our Casey Trees map. Simply search for 1801 E St SE under "Address or Place", zoom in and click on each tree for species and origin information.

No comments: