23. 2126 Wisconsin Avenue

2126 Wisconsin Avenue
Photo by Bob Rives

Holy Rood Cemetery

In 1832, Holy Trinity Parish purchased a new burial ground—Holy Rood. Located to the north of the parish, at the present intersection of 35th St. and Wisconsin Ave, NW, the ground became the primary burial site of the parish in 1833. Holy Rood includes thousands more burials than headstones, most of which have fallen into disrepair. The University, which owns the cemetery, had drawn consistent criticism for oscillating between neglect and thwarted attempts to develop the site. A portion of the site dedicated to free burials has suffered special neglect—this half-acre, which lies near the entrance to the cemetery and appears to be empty—probably holds thousands of remains, including an estimated 1000 free and enslaved blacks alongside many thousands more whites. The cemetery remains active. Georgetown attempted to close the site to burials in the 1980s, but those holding rights to burial plots successfully sued to stop the University. Tim Healy, then Georgetown’s president responded: “The University takes the position that someday, somehow, the University must be allowed to convert this property from cemetery property to some other use.” Holy Rood has resisted transformation to other uses, but remains all but derelict—nevertheless one of the District’s oldest and most important black burial grounds thanks to Georgetown’s historically large black population. Currently, plans are being made under President ​DeGioia​ to entrust​ Holy Trinity with the responsibility for maintaining the cemetery.

(Source: Matthew Quallen)