Oak Hill Cemetery is 155 years old, having been incorporated by Act of Congress on March 3, 1849. Renwick's Chapel of 1849 and his iron enclosures still grace this major example of a cemetery of the 19th Century Romantic Movement, a natural and not formal English garden accepting and blending with nature rather than being a geometrical imposition on nature. The greatest proponent of the natural garden and its application to cemeteries was Andrew Jackson Downing and there is evidence, but no conclusive record, that he did the landscape designs of Oak Hill Cemetery.
The Cemetery is now initiating a program of historic restoration involving all areas of the Cemetery. The main focus will be the surface runoff system and the preservation of the Cemetery’s aging oak trees. In the fall of 2001, heavy rains accelerated the Cemetery’s watershed restoration program from a ten-year plan to one of overnight necessity. Below are some photographs and highlights of the devastation.
The Cemetery’s trees were the focus of a tree study performed by Bartlett Tree Experts. The Cemetery has some of the oldest trees in the city. In a 1974 article on Washington’s trees, for example, author Elaine Powell writes, “Old trees are decidedly more abundant in this part of the city, since it was a long established neighborhood (cemetery) where trees were spared the woodsman’s axe during the Civil War.” The Bartlett study count 252 tree that were 10” dbh (diameter at breast height) and over. Of that number, at least ten have been removed, and there are eight at this time that need to be removed because of disease or death.
In addition to the Watershed Restoration Program and the care of trees, all of the Cemetery’s structures, the Renwick Chapel, the Gatehouse the maintenance buildings, and the stone wall bordering Rock Creek dating from 1849.
In 1873, the founder of Oak Hill Cemetery, William Wilson Corcoran wrote “…and still is, my strong desire to make and keep the Cemetery in a condition to excite the admiration of the strangers, and to give the lot holders, in the time to come, a beautiful resting place for their loved ones from home.”
It is our desire to carry out Mr. Corcoran’s wishes, and we reach out to all who appreciate the beauty of this unique Cemetery.
Your interest and support for Oak Hill Cemetery would be appreciated. If you would like to help us perpetuate this lovely Cemetery, please click here for more information on how you can make a donation to Oak Hill Cemetery.
|Severe erosion near a mausoleum.|
|Temporary catch basin installed near Carriage House to stop erosion of the bank.|
|Crack developing along roadway near bridge.|
|Gravestone on the verge of toppling.|
|Some of the over 100 sunken graves and toppled monuments.|
|Road above Steuart sandbagged toward east.|