APS : Architectural Preservation Services

Projects

Congressional Cemetery Vaults

Washington, DC

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Client

Historic Congressional Cemetery

Completion Date

2009

Background

Founded in 1807 as the cemetery for Christ Church, Congressional Cemetery was originally designed to act as burial grounds for those statemen who died while in Washington whose remains could not be transported home. The practice continued for over fifty years until improvements in transportation and embalming facilitated transporting the deceased over long distances. Eventually, the cemetery became know as Congressional Cemetery. Four brick burial vaults from the nineteenth century were in various states of disrepair due to severe weathering and vandalism.

Scope

After a thorough inspection by our conservators, APS masons dismantled the unstable areas of the vaults, taking care to store the face bricks in the same arrangement, so that they could be returned to their original locations. The front and back walls were rebuilt and repointed, while the arches were excavated from decades of accumulation of earth and repointed. Several sections of sandstone coping required replacement, while cosmetic flaws in sound stones were patched. Because the original sandstone quarry is closed by the government, a new urn was cast from restoration mortar to match the existing stone. One vault required marble replacement coping and reassembly of marble memorial plaques. Each of the vaults was parged to prevent plant and earth penetration into the joints and the interior. The parging was finished with several coats of pigmented limewash.

APS also removed and repaired the iron gates and doors, requiring coordination with the Smithsonian Institute, who temporarily removed and stored the remains. While the remains were being stored, the vault interiors were cleaned and the vegetation removed. The interior plaster was grouted and patched to seal the cracks from further invasion.