In keeping with Cemetery intern tradition, I figured that I should go ahead and formally introduce myself and our other summer intern to the fabulous readers of this blog! My name is Katelyn Belz, and I am this summer’s Programming, Writing, and Research intern here at Historic Congressional Cemetery. I’m a rising senior and unabashed American history nerd at the George Washington University, just a stone’s throw away in the District. Since you’re reading this very blog right now, I think it’s fair to assume that you love history at least as much as I do, so I’m excited to share the dividends of my research with you throughout the summer and beyond.
My love for and study of history has brought me here, both to the DMV and to the Congressional Cemetery. Having the opportunity to study the inner workings and past main events of our nation in its most quintessential city has been a surreal experience for a girl from a nondescript South Florida suburb like me. Take it from me, there’s truly nothing quite like going for a casual weekend visit to Harper’s Ferry while taking a class on the Civil War! I was drawn to the Congressional Cemetery largely because of its fascinating, rich historicity – not only do such pivotal figures as J. Edgar Hoover and Matthew Brady call this space their eternal home, but the Cemetery itself also has a place all unto itself in the history of the Capitol Hill region. Just wandering through the Cemetery for the first time is like an open-ended, never-ending history lesson. You can imagine how hard I geeked out when I noticed that bitter rivals John Calhoun and Henry Clay’s cenotaphs are conveniently placed right next to each other!
Ultimately, I can’t wait to explore the histories of both these major figures and the seemingly average joes (who are, of course, anything but) here at the Cemetery. Everyone buried here has a story to tell, and I can’t wait to unlock some of these stories and share them with you. Throughout the summer, I’ll be conducting research and continuing to post some fun and funky histories like the ones you’ve seen here before. I’ll also be working on getting the word out on the Cemetery’s two new apps, so keep an eye on our social media and this blog for more on that soon! Since there’s been a tendency in the past for the blog to hit a lull once fall rolls around and interns return to their previous routines, I aim to get enough research and writing done so that I’ll have plenty of stories queued up for the near future. I hope you’re as psyched to dive into this slice of DC’s history this Summer as I am.
This seems like an appropriate place to segue into my conversation with our Preservation intern, Gabe Harper. I was lucky enough to be able to sit and chat with him about his life, interest in the Cemetery, and future in his internship and beyond last week. Gabe is also a rising senior, but, unlike me, he’s come here from far outside of the Cemetery’s backyard. Originally from a farm in Athens, Georgia, he’s a student of Landscape Architecture at UGA. Gabe’s experience in preservation will be a huge asset at the Cemetery; he’s done a ton of work in wood restoration and reclamation back in Athens, as well as doing some foundational support work in Brunswick, GA. He’s looking forward to expanding his experience in working with stone restoration; if any of your favorite stones and sites look significantly better when you stop by this summer, be sure to thank Gabe for giving our new Grounds Conservation Manager, Kymberly Mattern, a hand.
Gabe found his way here all the way from Athens from a list of internships posted on a historic preservation site. His program at UGA requires an internship between Junior and Senior year, and for Gabe, the Cemetery fit that bill perfectly! He’s excited to do preservation work here; one project he’s especially looking forward to, is working on restoring a mausoleum built in 1838. Gabe told me that he loves the landscape of the Cemetery as well, describing it as containing a sort of picturesque English character and providing a perfect environment to do historic preservation work in (and I’ll take a Landscape Architecture major’s word for it when they say a landscape is beautiful).
So far, it seems like Gabe has a lot of thoughts about DC as a whole. He described it as having “a lot of tall buildings and honking horns,” as well as being a bit tough to navigate; as a transplant, I can definitely relate. Nevertheless, he and I can both agree that the history is captivating and makes this city truly a unique joy to experience; some of his favorite spots include the National Mall and the Museum of American History. Ultimately, after the internship, Gabe plans to go on to grad school for Historic Preservation and using his experiences here for future preservation work, possibly even going back to school to study and teach Southern American history for some time after that. I’m glad I got to introduce him this early on in the summer, and I can’t wait to work together in preserving and communicating our “residents’” histories! Thank you so much for reading our (admittedly long winded) joint intro, and if there’s anything specific you want to hear about on this blog any time soon, please leave a comment.
-Katelyn Belz, Programming, Writing, and Research Intern