Glenwood Cemetry at 2219 Lincoln Rd. NE is a historical landmark with a glorious past and a rocky financial future. This cemetery one of the oldest in the District, is four acres of unused land to reduce maintenance costs and establish an endowment fund to maintain its grounds. The cemetery was incorporated by an act of Congress in 1854.
Because District cemeteries are zoned residential, the four acres, which run along Franklin Street, are expected to be sold for townhouse development. An iron fence that now encloses the land will be moved.
Kennedy Watkins, president of Glenwood's board of directors, said he anticipates that the sale will net Glenwood as much as half a million dollars.
As Watkins views it, "in a time when houses are in demand," Glenwood property is an ideal site for residential development. It's a level, tranquil spot less than two miles north of Capitol, on a bus route and within a stone's throw of Metro and Children's Hospital, he said. Trinity College and Catholic University are nearby.
Recently Trinity College sold 25 acres of unused land in the area for townhouse development. The land, on Michigan Avenue NE and just east of the North Capitol Street, sold for $3 million.
Glenwood's financial problems are simple, explained Watkins. In recent years, Glenwood has suffered high maintenance costs because of inflation, decreasing lot sales and the deaths of family members who had helped maintain family plots.
Societal changes have also contributed to the cemetery's financial woes, he said. Long ago the cemetery was viewed as "cherished spot," said Watkins. Now vandals periodically roam the grounds destroying property and discouraging visitors.
At one time, people also picked out burial plots long before they were needed, something they don't do now, Watkins said.
Over the years, the surviving members of families buried at Glenwood have died, monuments have been destroyed by vandalism and weather conditions and the costs of repairing them has overburdened the cemetery, said Watkins. Now the board is appealing to the National Endowment of the Arts for funds to preserve some of the statues.
Then there's the grass. Last year Glenwood used six men to cut grass during its 26-week grass-growing season at a cost of $3,120 per man, excluding Social Security and unemployment compensation. Two men were retained at the end of the season.
"The (maintenance) cost is so high the board gave some consideration to using sheep out there," said Watkins. "We had a permit to use 30-35 sheep in exchange for grazing rights."
This idea, however, was abandoned after the board decided to sell the excess land to lower maintenance costs and generate income.
In its 124-year history, Glenwood has made significant contributions to the growth of housing and education in Northeast Washington. When it was incorporated in 1854, Glenwood Cemetery - once known as Clover Hill Farm - consisted of 90 acres. Trinity College bought 30 acres for $40,000 in 1897. In 1899 Trinity purchased an additional 7.4 acres at the same price.
According to a phamplet compiled by Watkins, some of Washington's most respected citizens are buried at Glenwood. The cemetery is the resting place of David Lynn, an architect of the Capitol, and Constantino Brumidi, artist of the Capitol's frescoes. Emanuel Leutze, known for his painting "Washington Crossing the Delware," is also buried there.
At one time, Maj. Marcus A. Reno, an Army officer who was court-martialed and dishonorably discharged in 1879 for his actions at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, was buried at Glenwood. Reno, who died penniless in Providence Hospital, was accused of failing to aid Gen. George A. Custer during the battle. In 1967, Reno's great-grandnephew and the American Legion convinced the Army to reverse its decision and Reno's body was moved to the Custer Battlefield Cemetery in Montana.
Many of the monuments at Glenwood are of artistic interest. There is a marble representation of a child seated in a rocking chair, a statue of a man embracing his dog, and an 1854 monument to a volunteer fireman, which stands near the cemetery's chapel, completed in 1892.