Mount Olivet Cemetery is an historic rural cemetery located at 1300 Bladensburg Road, NE in Washington, D.C. It is maintained by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. The largest Catholic burial ground in the District of Columbia, it was one of the first in the city to be racially integrated.
On June 5, 1852, the Council of the City of Washington in the District of Columbia passed a local ordinance that barred the creation of new cemeteries anywhere within Georgetown or the area bounded by Boundary Street (northwest and northeast), 15th Street (east), East Capitol Street, the Anacostia River, the Potomac River, and Rock Creek. Existing Catholic cemeteries at St. Matthew’s Church, St. Patrick Catholic Church, and St. Peter Catholic Church were nearly full. A number of new cemeteries were therefore established in the “rural” areas in and around Washington: Columbian Harmony Cemetery in D.C.; Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland; Glenwood Cemetery in D.C.; and Woodlawn Cemetery in D.C. Father Charles I. White, the 51-year-old priest who had led St. St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church since 1857, was the individual most responsible for the creation of Mt. Olivet.
The cemetery was created in 1858. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, which then covered the District of Columbia, purchased 40 acres (0.16 km2) of Fenwick Farm for the cemetery. A gray stone lodge was built to mark the entrance. Because the burial grounds at St. Matthew’s, St. Patrick, and St. Peter churches were all full by that time, a number of graves were moved to the newly-established Mount Olivet in order to make room at the old cemeteries for new burials.
Mount Auburn Cemetery, a rural cemetery near Boston, Massachusetts, was the model for Mount Olivet. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Mount Olivet was known as one of the “big five” cemeteries in Washington, D.C.
From the start, Mount Olivet was racially integrated. Most cemeteries in the city were not. More than 7,700 African Americans were buried at Mount Olivet between 1800 and 1919 (about 7.6 percent of all African American burials in the city). In comparison, 24,000 Caucasians were buried there during the same period. Mount Olivet was the only racially integrated cemetery from the 19th century to remain active as of 1989, although this changed in 2019 when Holy Rood Cemetery in Georgetown opened a columbarium.
|Owned by||Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington|
|Size||85 acres (340,000 m2)|
|No. of graves||More than 180,000 (as of November 2019)|
|Find a Grave||Mount Olivet Cemetery|
|The Political Graveyard||Mount Olivet Cemetery|