Rock Creek Cemetery is owned by the Vestry, the governing body, of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Parish. The Church began as a mission on the Rock Creek Hundreds in 1712 and is the only surviving colonial church in what is now Washington, DC.
At a Church meeting on September 18, 1719, Colonel John Bradford, a Maryland planter who had been a member of the Vestry since 1712, donated one hundred acres of land to be the glebe for the Church. A glebe is a track of land, usually 100 acres, given to and for the support of a church.
Colonel Bradford's gift determined the site of a new chapel, and it is this glebe that is the church yard surrounding the Church and which also encompasses the Church's Rock Creek Cemetery.
Colonel Bradford's glebe, which was called 'Generosity,' was farmed for many years and the trees were cut and sold for fire wood. Early in the 20th century, the Church sold off 14 of the original 100-acre glebe to accommodate construction of New Hampshire Avenue, leaving the remaining 86-acre church yard for use of the Parish.
A burial ground for parishioners was under way in the church yard near the church in 1719, and in the 1830s the Vestry decided to expand the burial ground to be a public cemetery for the city of Washington. An Act of Congress in 1840 established the cemetery as a public burial place. Sections of the cemetery have been reserved for use by members of St. John's Russian Orthodox Church and St. Nicholas Orthodox Church. Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired (DACOR) are also laid to rest here.
The burial ground in the church yard's urban space, with its natural rolling landscape, was designed as part of the rural cemetery movement to function as both cemetery and public park. This beautiful park-like setting is now a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world, who come to see the remarkable variety of monuments and sculptures and often to visit the renowned Adams memorial.
Rock Creek serves as the final resting place to some of Washington's most notable residents including Abraham Baldwin (Signer of the U.S. Constitution), Montgomery Blair (Postmaster General in Lincoln's Cabinet), Charles Corby (Baking Innovator "Wonderbread"), Julius Garfinckel (Founder, Garfinckel's Department Store), Gilbert H. Grosvenor (Chairman, National Geographic Society), Patricia Roberts Harris (Secretary Health/Human Services in Carter's Cabinet) Alice Roosevelt Longworth (President's Daughter), George Washington Riggs (Founder of Riggs Bank), Harlon Fiske Stone (Chief Justice of the U.S.), and Sumner Welles (Under Secretary of State for FDR). Rock Creek Cemetery also serves as a local resource of history and art, including notable sculptures such as the Adams Memorial by Augustus St. Gaudens.
The parishioners of St. Paul's are strongly committed to the preservation of the Church and the church yard in perpetuity. Its rich heritage makes it a place of worship, cemetery services, and community outreach. Today Rock Creek Cemetery offers a wide selection of burial sites as well as granite, marble, and bronze memorials. Sales are by appointment only. Cemetery grounds are open to visitors daily. For an appointment or more information please call (202) 726-2080.