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Congressional Cemetery

The Congressional Cemetery is located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. A privately-run cemetery, it bears the name Congressional because many members of Congress from the nineteenth century are interred there. Beginning in 1807, with the death of Connecticut Senator Uriah Tracy, eighteen senators and forty-two representatives have been buried in this cemetery. Congress also initiated the practice of erecting monuments, “cenotaphs,” in memory of all its members who died in office, whether buried in the cemetery or not. Over time, improvements in transportation allowed deceased members to be removed to their home states for burial and in 1877 the practice of erecting cenotaphs was discontinued (although a century later one more was added in memory of two members of the House lost in an Alaskan plane crash).


Along with senators and representatives, the cemetery holds many other individuals associated with the Congress, among them Dr. William Thornton, the designer of the Capitol building; Samuel Otis, the first Secretary of the Senate; Vice President Elbridge Gerry, who died on his way to preside over the Senate; Isaac Bassett, one of the first Senate pages and later a longtime doorkeeper of the Senate; Joseph Gales and William Seaton, early newspapermen who recorded the debates in the Senate and House; Anne Royall, one of the first women journalists to cover Congress; Mathew Brady, who photographed Civil War-era legislators; and several architects, carpenters, artists, stone masons, and clerks who contributed to the operations of the early Congress, as well as others associated with the federal government.


The cemetery is open to the public. The gates close everyday at dusk.


 
  

Senate Historical Office

Historical information provided by the Senate Historical Office.


Senate's Institutional History

It was up to the first Senate in 1789 to organize, establish its rules, and set precedents that would govern its actions in years to come, evolving into a complex legislative body.