Time travel as close as your local cemetery.

Sunday’s Cemetery 10

April 26, 2015 / by davidwalton

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St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC serves as a final resting place for such notables as Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt; Wonder Bread creator Charles Corby; former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Harlan Fiske Stone; “The Jungle” author Upton Sinclair; and author and playwright Gore Vidal.

Cemeteries. Every city has one. They are mysterious, historic, haunting and, to me, fascinating. I developed a fondness for cemeteries as a boy.

Now whenever I’m out of town, I always make it a point to visit a cemetery. To me, they are better than any mountain range, skyline or other popular tourist attraction. They are hidden treasures containing a wealth of information about communities and the people who lived there.

Chances are you have visited a cemetery at some time in your life to pay your respects to a family member or friend, and perhaps you too appreciate the stories represented among the tombstones and monuments.

My travels take me to all over the South and Midwest, so I have decided to start documenting my cemetery visits with a series of photos in a new Sunday feature.

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Standing at the burial site of Montgomery Blair, a Kentucky native, who served as Postmaster General of the United States during the Lincoln administration.

This week’s cemetery is St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC, where I spent several days recently attending a conference. It’s one of two cemeteries I visited in our nation’s capital.

Adjacent to the Petworth neighborhood, the 80+ acre cemetery is part of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church which opened up the cemetery for public burials in the 1830s. It’s gigantic and hilly with many parts shrouded by shrubbery which makes looking for specific graves a challenge even with a map provided by staff at the cemetery office.

German brewer Christian Heurich is interred in this mausoleum with some very unique ornamentation.

German brewer Christian Heurich is interred in this mausoleum with some very unique ornamentation.

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Some sections of Rock Creek are dark and spooky as is evident in the photos above and below.

DSC07250 copyThe occupants read’s like a Who’s Who list. Besides plenty of congressmen, judges and other government officials, there’s Cleveland Abbe, scientist and father of weather forecasting; Emile Berliner, inventor of the disc record; former French Prime Minister Camille Chautemps; Wonder Bread creator Charles Israel Corby; Melville Bell Grosvenor, grandson of inventor Alexander Graham Bell and former editor-in-chief of “National Geographic” magazine; civil rights leader Moses Carl Holman; Charles Jenkins, inventor of television; former Cincinnati Enquirer owner Washington McLean and his socialite wife Evelyn McLean who owned the Hope diamond; former Postmaster General Blair Montgomery; “Hill Street Blues” actor Robert Prosky; former Soviet diplomat and defector Arkady Nikolayevich Shevchenko; author and Pulitzer Prize winner Upton Sinclair; and author, screenwriter and playwright Gore Vidal.

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One of the most striking characteristics about Rock Creek was the multitude of mausoleums with varying styles.

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Hibbs mausoleum

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Hepburn mausoleum

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Cragin mausoleum

Until next time….

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My friend Sara, who accompanied me on this visit, gets a close-up view of Thomas Trueman-Gaff’s grave stamped with the Latin phrase “excepit illum magna et astern pax” which means “the rest or peace of death.” Gaff was a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in the distillery and heavy machinery business in Cincinnati.

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The gravesite of Frederic Keep, a prominent Washington business man, and his socialite wife Florence, (their infant child is also buried here) features a sculpture of a male and female couple dressed in Roman style drapery and sandals.

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The Russian Orthodox section.

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The plaque on the grave of former newspaper correspondent William Eleroy Curtis features the so-called long s which was popular during the Italian Renaissance.

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No disrepect to the dead, but I burst out laughing when I saw this tomb. Mr. Coffin obviously had a sense of humor, too.

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