With the addition of 18 more acres in 1886, the Columbian Harmony Cemetery became one of the most active African American cemeteries in Washington, DC, well into the 20th century. It was the final resting place for many of Washington’s most prominent Black citizens — from activists, abolitionists, and Civil War veterans to entrepreneurs, educators, and entertainers.
After a period of financial instability and the lack of space to grow, the Columbian Harmony Cemetery spent many years looking for a new site in Maryland. Eventually, the cemetery’s land was sold to a real estate developer in 1959.
Approximately 37,000 graves were exhumed and moved to National Harmony Memorial Park Cemetery in Landover, Maryland, in 1960. The original site was sold to the District of Columbia. Interim uses included an automobile impound lot. In subsequent decades, the property was completely redeveloped to build the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Metro station and surrounding mixed-use development, erasing all evidence of this historic cemetery, save for a small commemorative plaque.
Tragically, cherished headstones and monuments were not transferred along with their remains, and the individual identities of gravesites were not marked in their new location. The burial markers disappeared. During subsequent construction in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, coffins and human remains continued to be discovered at the Northeast DC site.