News & Politics

A DC-Area Black Cemetery Is Now on a List of the Most Endangered Historic Places in the Country

Its Cabin John grounds are threatened by Beltway expansion plans.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is adding a DC-area Black cemetery to its annual list of the country’s Most Endangered Historic Places. The Morningstar Tabernacle No. 88 Order of Moses Cemetery and Hall in Cabin John currently sits in the path of a planned expansion of the Beltway.

The Hall—established around 1885 by Black residents (some formerly enslaved) of the post-emancipation settlement of Gibson Grove—was created as a way to care for the sick and destitute. It also served as the area’s first Black school. Known burials in the cemetery span from 1894 to 1977.

The foundations of the Hall are all that remain of the former structure, and part of the cemetery was destroyed by highway construction in the 1960s. Though the site has been deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the cemetery is still at risk of being demolished by the Route 495 expansion. Many descendants are still working to find their ancestors remains at the burial ground.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.