|Throughout the 19th Century, Walter Pierce Park was the site of two
cemeteries: Washington's first Quaker burial ground, and a much larger
In 1807, when Jonathan Shoemaker owned the land and operated a mill
down the hill along Rock Creek, he donated about an acre of his property to
the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, for a burial ground. The
location of this cemetery was at the east end of the ball field.
From 1823 to 1870, President John Quincy Adams and his heirs owned the
land that makes up the park, when they sold some six acres of it to the
Colored Union Benevolent Association for an African American cemetery. It
operated from 1870 to 1890. Recent research into the cemetery has
revealed that at least 7,000 burials occurred during that 20-year period,
throughout the entirety of the park and down the hillside to Rock Creek.
Some disinterments took place in the 1940s, but the continued discovery of
remains prevented builders from developing the land. In other words: the
presence of the historic cemeteries helped preserve the land that today is
Walter Pierce Park.
Although the site was used for a community garden, continued erosion
issues below the gabion wall, as well as ongoing concerns about the
sensitive nature of the area has caused DPR to discontinue use of this area
for gardening. DPR will be fixing the erosion problems below the gabion wall.
Currently, Howard University Professor Mark Mack and his students are
conducting an archaeological survey of the park.
The pedestrian, or walk-over survey of the park, is a non-invasive way to
quickly determine the amount and location of archaeological and/or skeletal
evidence at the surface. There will be no digging or invasive work. The
survey begins by creating 10 meter by 10 meter grids in the park and then
the student team will be walking in a line over each 10-meter plot,
measuring, photographing, describing and mapping everything they see on
The survey will be conducted in three phases throughout the fall semester
and should conclude in spring 2007 with the generation of a map and a
report on the findings.
We hope to work with the Department of Parks and Recreation to use the
research gathered to eventually create a commemorative garden with
interpretive educational signage at the top half of the park (the site of the
former community garden) to honor this amazing piece not only of Adams
Morgan history, but the history of all D.C.