Christ Church was the first Episcopal Church in Washington Parish, created by the Maryland Vestry Act of 1794, “An act to form a new parish by the name of Washington Parish to include the City of Washington, and Georgetown on Potomac.” Christ Church’s first building was a tobacco warehouse on the corner of New Jersey Avenue and D Street, SE. Thomas Jefferson could often be seen, prayer book in hand, walking to Christ Church located a few blocks south of the site for the new Capitol building.
In 1806, the cornerstone was laid for the church’s current structure at 620 G Street, SE. Since the beginning of the 19th century, this charming, compact building, later remodeled to look like an English country church in Gothic–Revival style, has crowned a little knoll on Capitol Hill. It is the earliest structure in the city built to serve an ecclesiastical purpose, and is listed on the National Historic Register. Twenty–eight rectors have served Christ Church. Famous parishioners include John Philip Sousa, born three houses from the church on G Street. A stained glass window honoring Sousa and his wife was added to the parish hall/office addition in 1966. Sousa is interred at Congressional Cemetery located at 18th and E Street, SE and each year a concert is held at the cemetery on November 6th to commemorate Sousa’s birthday.
Named by the Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark in 2011, and one of 11 “endangered historic sites” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the cemetery is owned by Christ Church and managed by the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery. Historic Congressional Cemetery celebrates its 204th birthday this year in 2011. Christ Church continues to be actively involved in the workings of the cemetery through membership on the board and an active volunteer program. The rector is an ex-officio member of the board. The cemetery at 18th and E Streets SE has been Christ Church’s burial ground since 1812 and Christ Church parishioners serve as docents for guided walking tours of the cemetery.* * Christ Church + Washington Parish A Brief History, by Nan Robertson (Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Christ Church member)
To learn more about the history of Christ Church, read our Christ Church History