If you’ve passed Holy Rood Cemetery just north of Georgetown recently, you may have wondered what the large construction is about. The construction is part of an ambitious plan to save the crumbling cemetery and bring it into use again.
The cemetery has a strong connection to the Georgetown community. It was the final resting place of generations of Catholic Georgetowners. It is also the location of one of the largest cemeteries for free and enslaved African Americans. It was first established by Holy Trinity Catholic Church in 1832. The church maintained it until Georgetown University took over control in 1942. Burials declined sharply. Only a handful of individuals who had purchased plots decades before were allowed to be buried there into the 1990s. In the 1980s, the university explored removing the graves and developing the property. That never came to pass.
But in the meantime, the cemetery turned to ruins. Grave stones were broken and toppled all over the property. GM criticized the university harshly for their disgraceful custodianship of the cemetery over ten years ago. (GM has hardly the only party criticizing GU). And to the university’s credit, they finally came up with a plan to restore the cemetery, which was announced last year.
As described by GU:
Under this agreement, Georgetown University and Holy Trinity will restore and improve the cemetery. Holy Trinity has secured the right in perpetuity to build a 645-niche columbarium at Holy Rood for parishioners, those who have ancestors interred at Holy Rood, and other members of the community.
Each niche can hold up to two urns. Holy Trinity will use a portion of the proceeds of columbarium niche sales to establish a Perpetual Care Endowment for Holy Rood. In addition, Holy Trinity and Georgetown University will establish a Joint Management Committee to insure the perpetual care of the cemetery.
This is what the columbarium will look like when it’s complete:
Additionally, an existing crypt will be restored to hold additional urn niches:
The niches will not come cheap. For a niche in the crypt it will cost $12,000 (it’s $9,000 for pledge-giving Holy Trinity parish members or family members of currently buried individuals). For the wall it will cost $9,000 ($7,750 if you qualify for the reduced price for the crypt).
Restoring the cemetery as well as bringing it back into active use will be a massive improvement. Georgetown University and Holy Trinity should be congratulated.