39. 37th Street and P Street

White-Gravenor Hall, Georgetown
Public domain photo

Site of Old College Ground

Where the Intercultural Center building now stands near the Reiss Building on the campus of Georgetown University lies the remnants of the Old College Ground where Catholics, both prominent white and enslaved were buried. It served Holy Trinity Church’s need for a sacred Catholic burial place for its parishioners. The College, now Georgetown University, normally sent the enslaved to the Maryland providences to retire and be buried. However, in rare cases, between 1818 and 1833 they were buried in the Old College Ground. The cemetery itself was divided six ways: by class and race. Holy Trinity buried African American in half the cemetery and whites in the other. Within either half, the parish divided plots into three sections on the basis of ability to pay (so much for the equanimity of death.) Those who could pay full rates the Parish buried together; so too those who could pay half-rates or required free burial. In 1833, the parish moved burials north to the upper graveyard, Holy Rood. The graveyard endured neglect until the 1930s, when construction workers building White-Gravenor rediscovered the site. In 1953, to build a new science building, Georgetown dug up and transferred the graves there to Mt. Olivet cemetery. The university identified 189 burials in the cemetery, evidently from parish records; but death register indicates vastly more interments than Georgetown planned to relocated, raising the harrowing possibility that slaves and others, remain buried on Georgetown’s campus. They would lie roughly where the Northeast Triangle is now rising.

(Source: Matthew Quallen)