The Olmsted Woods are the last vestige of an extensive oak and beech forest on Mount St. Alban. All Hallows Guild restored the five-acre Olmsted Woods over a 10-year period, completed in 2008 at a cost of nearly three million dollars. Now the Woods include a stone footpath, the Pilgrim Way, a contemplative circle, native wildflowers and shrubs, and a host of migratory birds.
All Hallows Amphitheater
The amphitheater has long figured in the Cathedral’s history, serving as a place for outdoor services in earlier days (see archival pictures). A functioning outdoor amphitheater was another part of Olmsted’s plan, and now, thanks to restoration, this beautiful outdoor space of curved stone walls and grass walkways is once again a perfect setting for worship, contemplation and performance.
Restoration of the Woods and Amphitheater
All Hallows Guild members Anne Elsbree and Anne (Dede) Petri have managed the three phases of the restoration project and led the successful effort to raise funds to pay for it. Water run-off has been channeled and invasive exotics removed. An ecologically sound path winds up through the Olmsted Woods from Garfield Street to the George Washington statue, called the Pilgrim Way. Landscape Architect Michael Vergason designed the amphitheater with the plantings of native trees, shrubs, and flowers that mirror the oak and beech woodland plantings in the surrounding Olmsted Woods.
Visiting the Woods
Woods Walks (guided tours) and Birdwalks are scheduled throughout the year - Woodswalks-Birdwalks Current Schedule
Volunteering in the Woods
Recently, an Olmsted Woods volunteer had this to say about her morning in the Woods:
"First we pulled Japanese Stiltgrass from beside the walkway in the central area near the Cardinal Flowers. Then we worked beside the walkway north of the wooden bridge, on the ravine side, where the slope is very steep -- not far from the bench on that side. Here we pulled ivy and Virginia Creeper that was threatening to smother a nice patch of Wild Ginger. Finally we worked further up the walkway, in an area between the contemplative circle and the big beech tree, across from the pile of cut logs. Here we freed another stand of Wild Ginger and cleared ivy and other invasives from that side of the walkway. Peter (Peter Spaulding, Horticulture Staff) was able to join in later, and we worked a little more pulling ivy from beside the steps coming down from George. It was a really beautiful day in the Woods" Click here to Be A Volunteer in the Olmsted Woods
“The Olmsted Woods & All Hallows Amphitheater” by Dede Neal Petri, January 2009
“On the Side of the Angels—Landscape architects restore the Olmsted Woods at the Washington National Cathedral”
Landscape Architecture, July 2006. Posted with permission.
"It All Started in a Garden" Herald, Spring 2009. The Dean's Remarks at Amphitheater Dedication, Page 4
Read the full text at nationalcathedral.org »
“The Amphitheater - Then & Now" St. Albans Bulletin, Winter 2008, By Suzanne Miller