Rules & Regulations
Historic Congressional Cemetery is administered by the nonprofit Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery and owned by Christ Church, Washington Parish. The Association is constantly striving to maintain the historic, cultural, and aesthetic qualities of this natural landscape along the Anacostia River.
Congressional Cemetery is among the oldest institutions in Washington and the final resting place for scores of individuals who were instrumental in the founding of the nation and its new capitol city. With the first burial in 1807, the cemetery almost immediately became associated with the United States Congress and thus earns the distinction of being the first national cemetery. In addition, it is the only place in Washington where one can be buried in a site directly on L’Enfant’s 18th century city plan. Congressional Cemetery was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011 and continues to build upon the legacy of over 200 years of American history.
In order to maintain this historic landscape for future generations, The Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery has established Rules and Regulations in order to meet or exceed the National Park Service Standards for Historic Preservation. These principles and procedures regulate the sale of lots, interments, placement of structures, planting, liability, and etiquette within the gates of the cemetery.
1. The ownership of an Interment Right shall be the owner on record in the books of The Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery or its successors, hereinafter called “The Association” and shall be either a sole individual or a joint ownership consisting of no more than two individuals. The right of interment in a burial site shall belong to the owner on record or to those other persons legally entitled thereto in accordance with these Rules and Regulations.
2. An Interment Right may be sold by the owner on record. If the owner desires to sell the Interment Right, they shall give the Association written notice. Those wishing to sell an Interment Right must provide adequate proof of ownership of the Interment Right.
3. No gift, devise, or transfer of an Interment Right shall be valid until the Association has received notification in writing thereof on forms provided by the Association and has consented by recording the same on its books. Those wishing to transfer an Interment Right, by sale, gift, or inheritance, must provide proof of ownership of the Interment Right.
4. Every instrument, adjudication or decree affecting the ownership or use of an Interment Right must be filed with the Association. Until receipt of such filing, the Association may rely upon its own records of ownership for all purposes.
5. The Association reserves to itself, and to those lawfully entitled, a perpetual right of ingress and egress over individual burial sites for the purpose of passing to and from other burial sites and for necessary maintenance. No easement or right of way is granted to the owner of an Interment Right in any road, drive, alley, or walkway within the Cemetery.
1. An Interment Right does not suggest any ownership right to the land itself. An Interment Right may be used only for the interment of human remains and burial container.
2. Interments or burials may be made only in burial sites which have been fully paid for, except by special written permission of the Association.
3. An Interment Right that remains unused for a period of 75 years will be declared abandoned and will be reclaimed by the Association upon reasonable attempt to locate owner or inheritors of said Interment Rights.
4. When an interment is to be made in a site, the Interment Right owner or lineal descendant or authorized person shall present proof of ownership of the Interment Right for the intended burial site to the Association, and shall complete an Interment Authorization Form and [or] any other forms required by the Association. Should the Association not receive timely notice and all required documentation, the Association reserves the right to deny [or postpone] interment in that burial site.
5. All interments and disinterments must be made upon the conditions of the Association and upon payment of the current charges fixed by the Association. No less than twenty-four hours’ notice must be provided by The Association prior to an interment and at least one week’s notice to any disinterment is required.
6. Disinterment will not be permitted unless and until all terms and conditions of the Rules and Regulations and the laws of the District of Columbia are met. Disinterments shall require receipt of the appropriate governmental forms and authorizations, to be supplied by the family or appropriate legal representative seeking the disinterment. The presence of a funeral director, as required by the laws of the District of Columbia, shall be the responsibility of the family member or legal representative seeking the disinterment. The family member or legal representative shall complete the Association’s Authorization for Disinterment form and provide it to the Association for review and signature prior to the disinterment.
7. No more than two full bodies shall be interred in one grave site with the exception of the placement of urns where space is available. The Association retains the right to authorize multiple interments in one burial site and may designate areas where multiple inurnments may be made.
8.Vaults constructed of natural stone, metal or reinforced concrete are not necessary for the interment of caskets and urns.
9. In the best circumstances, the maximum amount of interments that each site may allow for is two full body burials and nine cremations. In certain situations, depending on the depth of underground obstructions or previous burials, the amount of burials may be restricted in a particular burial site. The maximum number of burials is not guaranteed.
1. A memorial may be placed on the burial site, but it must meet specifications and qualifications established by the Board of Directors. The Board retains the right to refuse memorials that do not meet those specs and qualifications.
2. A Contractor Work Approval Form must be filed out for each project the lot owner wishes to employ a contractor to work on the site. Work will not be permitted unless the Association is presented with this completed form.
3. Proposals for improving a burial site in any way, including plans for the installation, repair, or conservation of memorials, must be submitted in writing in advance to the Association for approval. Proposals that are not consistent with the Landscape Plan of the Association may be denied.
4. All plans for markers or burial site improvements must be accompanied by documentation regarding type of stone, inscription, size, location on site, facing direction, photograph, approximate date of installation, and any other pertinent information. Sketches with dimensions or scaled drawings are acceptable.
5. The Association reserves the right, at its option, to charge a reasonable rate to persons or firms for the permission to install memorials or other such improvements on burial sites. That fee is currently $150.00 and must be paid by either the installer or the lot owner.
6. Maintenance of markers, monuments, stones, fencing, and other permanent improvements to a burial site is the responsibility of the owner of the associated Interment Right. The Association, however, reserves the right to restore, repair, or reset markers that have become unsightly, unstable, or dangerous, and may, at the discretion other Association, charge the owner for the costs of labor and materials for such restoration work.
7. The monument may not exceed the boundaries of the purchased burial plot(s).
8. All memorials require design approval by the Board of Directors in regard to design, materials, and placement. A scale drawing including proposed text should be submitted by the owner or the memorial company along with a perspective drawing.
9. The address of the burial plot, Range and Site numbers, must appear on the monument in either the lower right hand corner of the front or the back. For example: R70 / S200.
10. Memorials should be natural stone, such as marble, granite, slate, or sandstone, or non-ferrous metals such as bronze. All other materials are subject to review and approval by the Board of Directors.
11. Monument restoration must be performed by a qualified conservator and approved by the Association before work begins.
1. A Contractor Work Approval Form must be filed out for each project the lot owner wishes to employ a contractor to work on the site. Work will not be permitted unless the Association is presented with this completed form.
2. Proposals for conservation and restoration work must be approved by the Association before work begins.
3. Two days advance notice is required for the installation of a memorial in order to properly prepare for the placement and to avoid events and funerals. Funerals always take precedence over memorial installation. Work must stop immediately and vehicles removed from view of the funeral.
4. All installation, engraving, and restoration work must be performed on Monday through Friday during office hours with the supervision of a member of the Association. Work will not be performed when there is snow, ice, heavy rain, strong winds, or lightning.
5. The Association will designate and map the location of the memorial.
6. All monuments, benches, and stones shall be plumb and level.
7. Installation should be 3’ on center of single burial plots or otherwise directed and marked by Association staff for adjoining family plots.
8. Concrete foundations are mandatory and installed at the owner’s expense. They must be plumb with surrounding memorials, level, and set 1” below grade. The depth of excavation for a memorial shall be approximately one-half the height of the memorial unless installed in compliance with current industry standards. A concrete foundation should extend 6” past the perimeter of the base but no wider than the plot itself. For larger structures, the foundation should adhere to local building code and current engineering standards. Planning for foundation setting should be scheduled with the Association at least two days prior to work.
9. Memorials with multiple pieces must be secured together with stainless steel pins.
10. For Department of Veterans Affairs headstones, the base of the tablet must be placed 17” below grade. The face of flush markers should never be placed below grade.
11. The address of the burial plot, Range and Site numbers, must appear on the monument in either the lower right hand corner of the front or the back. For example: R70 / S200
12. Hydraulic lime mortar is the preferred mortar at the site. The product “Set-Rite” or hydrated lime mortar shall be used to seal all joints on new installations. Portland cement is prohibited except for foundations. Vinyl, latex, silicone, “Crazy Glue”, “Gorilla Glue”, epoxy, tar, caulk, and sealants are prohibited.
13. Qualified conservation methods and historically sensitive materials are required for restoration work.
14. Memorials must be natural stone, such as marble, granite, slate, or sandstone, or non-ferrous metals such as bronze. All other materials are subject to review and approval by the Board of Directors.
15. Fasteners and hardware shall be bronze or stainless steel.
16. All adornments capable of retaining water must have a weep hole.
17. All trash, materials, and supplies must be cleaned up and removed from the property by the end of each day. Equipment left on site is at the sole risk and liability of loss, damage, or theft of the installer/contractor.
18. The grade and plant material must be restored to its previous condition prior to work, and when grass is unable to be restored, grass seed should be mixed with the exposed dirt.
19. All contractors must provide a certificate of insurance for all liabilities prior to working on the grounds.
20. Upon inspection by the Association, if a foundation, memorial, or engraving job is found to conflict with the Rules and Regulations, the Association with give the contractor written notice of the necessary corrections that must be performed at the expense of the contractor.
1. Proposals by a lot owner for improving a burial site in any way, including trees, shrubs, or flower beds, must be submitted in writing in advance to the Association for approval. Proposals that are not consistent with the Landscape Plan of the Association may be denied.
2. The Association has the authority to remove all flowers, wreaths and other decorative arrangements, and all trees, shrubs, plants, roots, branches and limbs, from burial sites as soon as they become unsightly, dangerous, or diseased.
3. No tree, shrubs, plants, herbage, markers, or fencing may be removed from a burial site unless the Association has given its approval in advance.
4. In order to maintain the overall appearance of this historic site, all planting must be approved by the Association in regard to the Master Landscaping Plan.
5.The plantings may not exceed the boundaries of the purchased burial plots.
1. The Association’s office hours are from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm on Monday through Friday. Historic Congressional Cemetery is open to visitors and lot owners from dawn until dusk every day. The site is closed to members of the K9 Corp from 10:30 am until 3:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays in order to allow lot owners time to visit their sites.
2. For visitation by lot owners and guests, entrance to the cemetery must be through the gate at 18th Street SE and E Street SE.
3. Dog walking is a privilege of our K9 Corp Members. Dogs without memberships must have a day pass, which can be purchased at the gatehouse.
4. The Association has the right to refuse admission to any person or persons deemed objectionable to the best interests of the Cemetery or whose behavior is unbecoming to the Cemetery.
5. The following activities are prohibited anywhere within the Cemetery: placing signs, notices, or advertisements of any kind; bringing or using firearms, except as permitted by the Association; littering the grounds with paper, trash or other refuse; the defacement, destruction or desecration of graves, gravestone monuments or the Cemetery grounds.
6. Use of the cemetery grounds for special events festivals, tours, educations programs, musical concerts, seminars, dog walking, races, marathons, ball games, or other recreational uses requires permission from the Association. The use of cemetery grounds or facilities for purposes other than interments or disinterment’s shall require adherence to and signature upon the Association’s Facilities Use Agreement and the payment of any associated fees or charges.
7. Automobiles are only permitted for funerals, grave visitation, and contractor equipment and must remain on paved surfaces unless approved by the Association. The speed limit throughout the entire cemetery is 10 mph. Entrance gate must be closed and latched immediately upon ingress and egress. The vehicle must be operated in a manner that insures safety of people, dogs, buildings, memorials, and plantings. Pedestrians and dogs have the right of way.
1. The Association reserves the right to use the property of Congressional Cemetery for any purpose whatsoever, consistent with the operation, care and maintenance of a Cemetery, as permitted by the By-laws of the Association and the laws of the District of Columbia.
2. The Association reserves the right to close or alter any road, drive, alley or walkway within the Cemetery at any time.
3. The Association is hereby empowered to enforce all Rules and Regulations and to exclude from the Cemetery any persons violating them. The Association shall have charge of the grounds and buildings, including the conduct of funerals, traffic, laborers and other workers, and all persons entering Congressional Cemetery grounds.
4. The Association reserves the right to remedy any stones that pose a threat to safety or are misaligned.
1. The Association takes reasonable precaution to protect the property within the cemetery gate but does not claim responsibility.
2. The Association is not responsible for loss or damage from causes beyond its control, such as natural disasters, civil disasters, or vandalism.
3. The Association is not responsible for mistakes made by a contractor.
1. Rules and Regulations may be amended, revised, and published from time to time as approved by the Board of Directors. Any modification of the Rules and Regulations shall be effective upon their passage by the Board.
2. The Association reserves the right to make exceptions, suspensions, or modifications of any of these Rules and Regulations in special cases, without notice, when the Board of Directors finds such action to be necessary.
Association: The Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery is the nonprofit organization that acts as a steward of the site.
Board of Directors: Appointed members in charge of supervision and decision making for the Association.
Burial Plot: A plot of land designated by Range and Site numbers that may be used for the burial of human remains. Typically measures 3’ by 8’ with a 2’ pathway for separation between every other range.
Cemetery: A burial park for the combination of earth interments and inurnments and tomb, crypt, or mausoleum entombments.
Entombment: The interment of remains in a tomb, vault, or mausoleum.
Footstone: Memorial placed at the foot of the grave. Generally flush to the ground.
Headstone: Memorial placed at the head of the grave.
Interment: An interment may be in the form of a full body casket or an urn, and placed in the ground.
Interment Right: An Interment Right shall be defined as the right to bury the remains of human remains in a designated burial site.
Inurnment: A burial in the form of ashes and/or urn.
Lineal Descendant: A person in direct ancestral line of a lot owner. For example: grandmother, mother, and granddaughter.
Mausoleum: Aboveground structures that hold remains.
Memorial: Includes a monument, marker, tablet, headstone, private mausoleum, or tomb to commemorate and indicate the location of a burial.
Niche: Area designed for cremation inurnments.
Lot Owner: Person who purchased the Interment Right for a particular burial site and regulates decisions made about the burial site with the approval of the Association.
Range: Numbered dissections dividing the cemetery from West to East; The first number in the address of a specific burial plot.
Site: Numbered dissections dividing the cemetery from North to South; The second number in the address of a specific burial plot.