The Meeting House has two cemeteries. The original burial ground was located behind the Old Presbyterian Meeting House (erected in 1775) at 321 South Fairfax Street. Some 300 persons remain buried in there. Notable Alexandrians interred there include George Washington’s personal physician, Dr. James Craik; John Carlyle, a founding trustee of the city; and a number of patriots of the Revolutionary War. The Tomb of an Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution lies on the northern side of this graveyard.
In 1804, Alexandria’s Common Council ended burials within the city limits, and in 1809 a “new” Presbyterian Cemetery was established on Hamilton Lane, about a mile west of the Meeting House. Known today as the Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium, it is located amid a number of other cemeteries, including the Alexandria National Cemetery. This cemetery is in use today.
Over the years, the Presbyterian Cemetery has provided burial space for merchants; ship captains; veterans of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War (including those who served for North and South); the Reverend Dr. Elias Harrison, fourth pastor of the Meeting House; the Reverend Dr. William R. Sengel, former pastor emeritus of the Meeting House; a half dozen of Alexandria’s mayors; numerous representatives of the city’s governing council; and at least one member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the 1950s, a group from Second Presbyterian Church assumed responsibility for the Presbyterian Cemetery. They established a fund to support cemetery operations, which today provides the operating budget and enables necessary capital improvements.
Beginning in the early 1970s, the late Rev. Sengel worked to return responsibility for the management and operation of the Presbyterian Cemetery to the Meeting House. This finally occurred in 1999. Numerous improvements to the property have been made since that time.
Though more than a thousand burial plots remain available in the Presbyterian Cemetery, a Columbarium was added in 2007 to provide more suitable accommodation for cremated remains. Located along the western edge of the roadway through the property, it contains 192 individual niches, each of which can hold two small urns. This facility is available for use by any Presbyterian. Because of the financial support provided by its operating fund, the Cemetery does not charge for perpetual care of interments either in the Columbarium or in individual gravesites.
War of 1812 Commemoration Features Burials in Presbyterian Cemetery
Records indicate that some 48 members of the Meeting House congregation were veterans of the War of 1812. Nearly two-thirds are buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery. Scores more congregants who are interred here served in support of the American war effort as civilians—as members of Alexandria’s Common Council, Committee of Vigilance, and other capacities. To learn more, read our brochure, War of 1812–Burials at the Presbyterian Cemetery.
Directions to the Presbyterian Cemetery
From the Old Presbyterian Meeting House at 321 South Fairfax Street:
- Head south on S. Fairfax St.
- Turn right onto Gibbon St.
- Continue to the end of Gibbon and turn right onto S. Payne St.
- Turn left onto Wilkes St.
- At the sign, turn left onto Hamilton La. and follow it to the second cemetery gate.
- The Columbarium is located at the rear of the drive on the westernmost limit of the cemetery.