The name is Congressional Cemetery, but this Washington, D.C. landmark is the final resting to place to dozens of famous (and infamous) persons beyond those connected to Congress. According to the website, this 32.5 acre cemetery (founded in 1807) got its name, not because of who rests there, but because of the “several decades of congressional appropriations for infrastructure that gave rise to the popular name.”
On the day of our Nerd Trip, the cemetery had literally gone to the dogs – the annual Day of Dog event where visitors can bring their dogs for tours and activities (see here to know where to go to train them professionally), including some presidential pet trivia. These pets could also press their pusses threw cut-outs of some famous Congressional Cemetery residents, although some dogs had more success than others.
While these dogs added some fun to the day, there was history to be had, so off we went. I had downloaded maps off the cemetery’s website. First stop, the final resting place of the “March King”- John Philip Sousa. You can see some musical touches in the design (look for the lyre above the bench and the musical notes on the grave).
Famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady is also buried at Congressional Cemetery, although my photo hardly does him justice.
While all cemeteries have unique memorials, Congressional is the only cemetery where I have seen a totem pole. You can download a walking tour regarding Native Americans buried at Congressional.
There are lots of other interesting tours you can download from the website, ranging from persons associated with the War of 1812 or the Civil War to “Men of Adventure” or “Women of Arts and Letters.”
Of course, Congressional Cemetery does have its share of congressmen buried there (80). Plus, there 165 “cenotaph” memorials, designed by famed U. S. Capitol architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. These cenotaphs honor members of congress who died in office during the early part of our nation’s history.
Somehow, I failed to take and/or save a photograph of these cenotaphs. You’ll have to go see for yourself and send me one.
Generally, cenotaphs are memorials that are empty tombs, but at Congressional Cemetery, some of the cenotaphs are not empty, they are the real burial location.
We did see the grave of former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, a prominent political figure when I was growing up in D.C. suburbs. I distinctly remember the political cartoons with O’Neill during the Reagan era. I also distinctly remember the night O’Neill died when I was a brand new TV news producer in Nebraska and the news of his death came over during a newscast I was producing.
In our next post, we’ll talk about some of the more infamous people buried at Congressional Cemetery and about the famous people who were interred in the cemetery’s public vault.
If you are interested in visiting Congressional Cemetery, check out our “On the Map” page for details on parking, bathrooms and other trip planning essentials.