Holy Rood Cemetery

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Not to be confused with Cemetery of the Holy Rood.
View of Washington Monument from Holy Rood Cemetery
Much of Holy Rood Cemetery has fallen into disrepair.

Holy Rood Cemetery is located at 2126 Wisconsin Avenue NW at the southern end of the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It stands at one of the highest elevations in Washington, D.C. and has memorable views. Holy Rood Cemetery contains approximately 7,000 graves, including as many as 1,000 free and enslaved African Americans, and may be the best-documented slave burial ground in the District of Columbia. At the western edge of the cemetery is the grave of Joseph Nevitt, a veteran of the American Revolution.[1]

Originally named Trinity Church Upper Grave Yard, the cemetery was established by Holy Trinity Catholic Church in 1832, and enlarged between 1850 and 1870.[1] The cemetery walls were torn down in 1901 and new ones erected, and a large number of trees cut down to prevent roots from dislocating memorials and limbs from damaging monuments during storms.[2] The cemetery was active from the mid-nineteenth century into the early twentieth century, and a few burials took place as late as the 1990s.[1]

The cemetery is owned by Georgetown University. In the 1980s, the university explored the possibility of disinterring the bodies buried there so that the land could be put to other uses, but was blocked by a legal action brought by the remaining holders of burial rights.[1] The cemetery reflects years of disuse and neglect. Many of the tombstones are toppled, damaged or overgrown, and grass grows up through large cracks in the asphalt walkway leading through it.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d "Burial Grounds of Holy Trinity Church, Georgetown, D.C.". Newsletter of the Catholic Historical Society of Washington. July–September 2002. 
  2. ^ "Improvements Being Made in Holy Rood Cemetery". Washington Evening Star. November 20, 1901. p. 16. 
  3. ^ Salmon, Jacqueline L. (August 28, 2008). "'It Shows a Disrespect for the Dead': Condition of Holy Rood Cemetery Upsets Family Members of Deceased". The Washington Post. p. T23. 

Coordinates: 38°55′03″N 77°04′13″W / 38.9176°N 77.0704°W / 38.9176; -77.0704