Roxy the Doberman pinscher takes a stroll among the cenotaphs empty tombs that honor deceased Members of Congress at the Historic Congressional Cemetery. The graveyard has become a haven for dog walkers, who help pay for the upkeep of the grounds.
A few years ago, Crowley was at a workshop for historical cemeteries, and he explained the association’s dog-walking program.
“All the people kind of looked down their noses at it,” he said, then added with a laugh:“Then I explained that it took care of the expenses for cutting the grass, and immediately, they looked up and said, ‘And how does that work now?’”
The efforts of the association appear to be bearing some fruit. “It seems like they’re doing more to orient it as a cemetery,” said Marc Olano, a neighborhood resident and a longtime dog walker of his foxhound Patience. “I think the cellphone tours are pretty cool,” he said.
A Historical Pedigree
Erin Harms, who is married to Olano and shares dog-walking responsibilities for Patience, said the association has been good about balancing the dogs and the needs of historical preservation, noting that the group banned dog toys.
“I think they had to do it, to protect the tombstones,” she said, explaining that any number of dogs could chase a tennis ball right into a 200-year-old headstone.
The cemetery, which opened in 1807, has a long history of honoring or interring the Washington elite. In its earliest days, it operated without a formal name. It became Washington Parish Burial Ground after being deeded in 1812 to the vestry of the Christ Church on Capitol Hill.
People began referring to it as Congressional Cemetery toward the middle of the 19th century, after Congress purchased plots to memorialize its Members who had died in office.
It is these stretches of the grounds that contain some of the cemetery’s most notable architectural structures, the cenotaphs, that mark the passage of some of the Capitol’s most famous denizens.
There are about 170 cenotaphs, or “empty tombs,” here. They are, mostly, short, squatty blocks, topped by stone cubes with domes and were designed by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe.