Even at His Final Resting Place, Ben Bradlee Still Makes Waves

The family of Ben Bradlee and a small circle of friends and guests gathered Oct. 21 to attend the remains of the legend of American journalism. Bradlee was interred at noon in a bright, new mausoleum at historic Oak Hill Cemetery on a bright, autumn day—a year to the day of his death in 2014.

All of that moved gracefully, but it is Bradlee’s final resting place that is getting some critical notice.

The landscape “is significantly altered with the addition of this mausoleum,” said Charles Birnbaum, president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, according to WTOP, which added, “The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs decided Wednesday that the family needs a permit for the mausoleum.”

The story was first reported by Kriston Capps, a writer for the Atlantic’s City Lab on Oct. 20.

“We will comply with whatever the city requires,” David Jackson, superintendent of Oak Hill Cemetery, told The Georgetowner Oct. 22.

The larger-than-life Bradlee’s final resting place is front and center—not unlike the man himself in life—at Oak Hill Cemetery on R Street and can be seen from the sidewalk. Until Oct. 21, Bradlee’s remain lay in a crypt in the nearby historic Renwick Chapel also on the front grounds of the cemetery.

The Bradlee mausoleum’s inside wall is emblazoned with a bas-relief of the American flag. Its floor is etched with a stanza from Maya Angelou’s “When Great Trees Fall.” It contains space for more family members.

A slate walkway—which leads to the Bradlee vault—bisects the cemetery’s front ellipse but will likely be changed, according to Jackson of Oak Hill Cemetery. The fountain that was at the center of the ellipse has been temporarily removed but will be reinstalled. There are plans for a row of other vaults to run along the rear of the ellipse, as approved by the cemetery board five years ago.

George Hill, president of Oak Hill Cemetery Company, responded to Birnbaum’s concerns in an Oct. 13 letter. In part, Hill wrote: “We see our role as the stewards of Oak Hill on many levels and aim to be guardians of its many sacred places. It is also a working cemetery, and citizens continue to need a place be interred in Georgetown. … Oak Hill does not and cannot survive on charity alone. We have survived for 166 years by being a working cemetery, and we hope to continue. Eventually, we may need to end sales of interment spaces and become a museum, but not quite yet. …”

Born on Aug. 26, 1921, Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee died last year at the age of 93 at his N Street home, which he shared with his wife Sally Quinn and son Quinn Bradlee. The revered and feared editor of the Washington Post was best known for the Post’s winning coverage of the Watergate scandal which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Open to the pubic at certain hours, the 22-acre Oak Hill Cemetery, founded in 1849, contains monuments and mausoleums and includes such famous figures as Dean Acheson, William Corcoran, Uriah Forrest, Herman Hollerith, Philip Barton Key, John Howard Payne and Albert Pike. For a time, Willie Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln’s son, was buried there. It has nearly 20,000 burial sites.


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