Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel (Washington, D.C.)
The Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel is a historic chapel located in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, DC. Built in 1850 and designed by architect James Renwick, Jr., the chapel stands at the highest point in the cemetery and is the only example of Renwick’s Gothic Revival style of architecture known in Washington, DC. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in May of 1967, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in March of 1972. The chapel and the surrounding area is currently operated for tours, weddings, and other events.
Backstory and Context
In 1848, philanthropist William Corcoran purchased a 15-acre plot of land from Lewis Washington, the great-grandson of George Washington. The purpose of this purchase was build a cemetery, and Corcoran organized a company in order to create the cemetery. In 1849, an Act of Congress declared that the Oak Hill Cemetery Company would be contracted to construct the cemetery. During the construction of the cemetery itself, architect James Renwick, Jr., was commissioned to build a small chapel for the cemetery, as well. The chapel itself was completed in 1950.
The building was particularly well-received due to its Gothic Revival architecture, which critics praised as a peak performance of the architectural style. The chapel stayed in use over the years, and on May 28th, 1967, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark. Not long after that, it was added to the national Register of Historic Places on March 16th of 1972. Today, the Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel is still in use, and remains one of James Renwick, Jr.’s most well-known works.