October 25 – Holy Rood Cemetery (ONP #298)

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For a moment there, I thought I might became more than a spectator at this historic Georgetown cemetery when an unleashed Doberman Pincher charged up behind me barking as I was photographing a tombstone. But the offending beast was ultimately leashed, and I was able to continue my rambles.

Indeed, it’s just old tombstones and dog walkers up here in Holy Rood Cemetery.


Founded in 1832, the cemetery is seems not quite forgotten. The thin slabs of its 19th century tombstones sprawl over the hilltop in no discernible pattern, not lined or rowed up like some more organized cemeteries. Some stones were not even standing, in fact.  Many were leaning, broken in half, or had fallen completely and were propped up against their neighbors as if they were taking a late afternoon nap using the neighbor’s stone as a backrest.

Located on a hill with great views overlooking the city, Holy Rood (an old English word for “cross”) is now owned by Georgetown University. Most notably it houses a veteran of the Revolutionary War and has, according to Wikipedia, about 7,000 graves, some 1,000 of them belonging to free and enslaved African Americans, making it one of the best documented African-American cemetery of its time period.

As usual, I had no idea this cemetery was here (Isn’t that a common refrain from this year!)  I had glimpsed tombstones on a hill when I drove down Wisconsin Avenue, but always assumed it was just a usual modern cemetery.