APS : Architectural Preservation Services


Congressional Cemetery Mortuary Chapel

Washington, DC

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Historic Congressional Cemetery

Completion Date



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. In 1903, a small Gothic Chapel was erected in order to conduct memorial services inside the cemetery.


Water infiltration from a roof leak had caused considerable damage to the interior plaster of the chapel. The outermost layer of plaster had detached from the wall, revealing older versions of the inscription above the arch. APS conservators worked with the field crews to document each inscription as it was revealed during removal of the deteriorated layers of plaster. This cautious removal process allowed APS to understand fully the extent and sources of the damage, ensuring the problem was solved and not just masked.

After removing all the damaged and failing plaster, APS carpenters repaired the wall with materials in keeping with the historic character of the chapel. The walls were then stuccoed and painted and prepared for the inscription. A team of APS conservators carefully reinstated the historic inscription on the wall, working from a tracing of the original version. Several decoration campaigns were executed over the years in the chapel, and APS made efforts to document all those phases. The client decided which campaign they felt was best to reinstate, choosing the larger, simpler inscription.