A Special Place in Hell – Memorial/Sculpture Theft at Rock Creek Church Cemetery

Example of one of the many beautiful sculptures in Rock Creek Church Cemetery

Back in Nov. ’10 we took a week to look at some of the beautiful sculptures at Rock Creek Church Cemetery located at Rock Creek Church Rd and Webster St, NW and near the Old Soldiers Home grounds.

The following circulated on the MPD 4D Listserv last night:

Dear Neighbors,

It is a great sadness to share with you that our cemetery has been targeted for theft of bronze. At the end of last week an 11 ft bronze work of art and other pieces were removed. This took quite an effort since the installation required a crane and at least six men to get it in place. You can imagine how the family of the deceased feels.

We believe that we offer the community a beautiful, quiet spot for walking, running and playing with children. However, we need you to help us. The security mantra of “if you see something say something is a good one.” If you are enjoying our space and see persons defacing the property or acting in a suspicious way please notify our office (202) 726-2080.

The Police Department are doing their part. Please help us so we can continue to allow public use of this space.

(Rev.) Rosemari Sullivan

21 Comment

  • That’s horrible.

    In other news, you can run there? I always thought it was frowned upon to run in a cemetary. I used to run there, but then my wife yelled at me and I stopped.

  • Terrible.

    I don’t know about Rock Creek Church Cemetary, but Congressional Cemetary is open to the public and also has dog-walking memberships, where people can let their dogs play off leash there. It’s part of how they pay for upkeep.

    • Agree about Historic Congressional Cemetery(HCC). What makes it so wonderful is that they DO allow joggers, walkers, dogs and dog owners there all the time. If I can’t sleep at 3 a.m. say, I just gather up the dog and we head on over. AND – I agree with all the other posts – there IS a special place in hell for people who steal such irreplaceable objects. Those will never be replicated. AND – where does one melt something like this down? Can’t do it on the stovetop, can you? Guess we’re going to have to start puting a GPS chip in all these things!!

  • Wake me when the manhole covers start disappearing again.

  • I’m a big fan of Rock Creek Cemetery. There is a special place in hell for people who would steal beautiful, essentially public works of art, from a cemetery no less, and presumably melt them down for their scrap value. These are irreplaceable works – I don’t think modern sculptors even have the skills anymore to cast such intricate, detailed pieces like the ones made by 19th century artisans in Rock Creek Cemetery. If caught, the perpetrators should be forced to pay for full replacement and restitution no matter how much it costs or how long it takes. then, they should be thrown into a pool of the molten bronze they stole, to become their own sculptures, ha ha. 🙂

  • I’m a huge fan of the cemetery. I and agree: there’s a special place in hell reserved for these folks.

    I’ve seen runners there – I run, but I do not run there – I’ve never seen anyone look askance at the runners.

    I regularly walk my dogs there – and though I sometimes bend the rules by letting them offlead a bit, I try to make up for it by doing lots of litter cleanup while walking, and being rigorous about pet cleanup.

    The thing I wonder is this: the cemetery is locked and closed at night. Did they break in through a gate? Did they have a key? Is this an inside job? Particularly with the detail about needing a crane.

    Any idea which sculpture this was? There is so much beautiful artwork in there, including, IIRC, a Rodin. While I’m sure the family is distraught about this, it seems like a newer work might be easier to replace.

    I had an “Old 33′ with Tim Russert there the other day…

  • Makes me wonder, why some will spend more on dead “haves” than alive “have-nots”

    Hopefully the area scrap metal dealers will be aware of this and report it when they show up at the shop.

  • It sort of surprises me that someone would go to all that trouble/work. Most thieves are into the jobs that are quick and easy – less chance of getting caught and less thought required to pull it off. And they better have someone already lined up to melt it down (that they trust not to turn them in) ’cause not only are they never going to be able to pawn this but finding someone to do this after it has been stolen is going to be looking very suspicious unless they know it is stolen and are getting their cut.

  • Thanks for posting. The more people that know about it, the more likely it will be to find it. Perhaps people saw it and didn’t know it was being stolen. It’s the kind of thing that if I saw it happen, I might just think they were removing it for maintenance if the crooks were trying to look that way.

  • This is so sad. I heard the stolen statue was a newer one, not one of the 19th century ones…but it was huge (an obelisk structure with a nature theme). There are also apparently a lot of smaller thefts going on (name plates off mausoleums, etc) and continuous vandalism and break-ins. They really need to step up their security there or anything not bolted down will be gone!

    • Oh darn…yes, I know that one. I think I got a picture of it in Feb.

      • If you have a photo could you post a link? It would be great if they could publicize the missing piece so people keep an eye out for it. That would be great.

    • I loved, loved that sculpture. That is horrible that it is gone now. But that sculpture would be an easy one to break up I think, even perhaps there with some cutting tools – if I remember it correctly.

  • Bastards!

    I love birdwatching there and just checking out the late 18th centurary headstones. Hope they find the punks who did it and put them IN the Cementary!

  • A gorgeous two-ton 1876 marble masterpiece called “The Death of Cleopatra” by the African American sculptor Edmonia Williams was rediscovered in a junk yard decades after it had been lost. It sits in SAAM today.

    I wish that something similar would occur with this sculpture, (but faster)!

    Keep your eyes open.


  • I came into the neighborhood with at least a glimmer of fate in humanity. It’s gone…

    spoiler alert: there are a lot of really crappy people frequenting this part of town right now…and muggings property theft is common.

    There are degenerates that live on the perimeter of the cemetery and pockets of unscrupulous “yos” that are doing their best to make stretches of Delafield, Decatur, Rock Creek Church Road, and the unit blocks between Totten and New Hampshire uninhabitable.

    My advice…don’t trust the locals.

    I imagine that the larger stuff probably disappeared at the hands of a few Mid 30s to Late 50 Ghettobillies who spend all day driving around this part of the city in vans and trucks looking to lift ANYTHING that isn’t nailed down.

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