Christ Church, Washington DC


Christ Church
NPS Photo

Christ Church, the city’s first Episcopal parish, is a Gothic style church extraordinarily rich in both cultural heritage and visual beauty. Several early Presidents worshiped here such as James Madison and James Monroe, as did the U. S. Marines who lived at the nearby Marine Barracks. Thomas Jefferson regularly attended services at the old tobacco warehouse church where services were held until 1807, when the present site near the Navy Yard was donated by William Prout. Although there is some debate, Benjamin Latrobe, one of 19th-century America’s greatest architects, is generally attributed with the design of the church. Latrobe is also well known for his contribution to the construction of the Capitol. One of Christ Church’s most prominent recent members was John Philip Sousa, the celebrated bandmaster and march composer. He was married here, and is now buried in the Church’s cemetery, Congressional Cemetery, which is the unofficial resting place for members of Congress.

The rental of pews provided the parish’s chief source of income. Three free pews were regularly reserved: one for the President of the United States; one for the donor of the land, Mr. Prout; and one for the rector’s family. When the first service was held on August 9, 1807, the church was known only as the “New Church in the Navy Yard.” The vestry formally adopted the name “Christ Church” on August 20, 1807. The church’s first rectory was built in 1824. The bell tower, added in 1849, was used as an observation post during the Civil War. The present Parish Hall was built in 1874. In 1924, the first rectory was razed and the present one was built on the same site. The Crucifixion window at the end of the chancel, a memorial to mothers, dates from 1927. In 1966, a two-story addition to the Parish Hall was constructed and dedicated to the memory of Rev. Edward Gabler, the priest and rector from 1928 to 1944. This architectural treasure is still dedicated to public worship.

Christ Church, Washington Parish is located at 620 G St., SE. Public access is limited. Metro stop: Eastern Market