“Set in Stone” doesn’t mean Forever!

February 5, 2019

stonework Repairs Needed in the Gardens

From the very early years of All Hallows Guild, our visionary leader, Florence Brown Bratenahl, had as her watchwords, “Historic Trees, Boxwood, Yew and Stone.” Indeed Mrs. Bratenahl wrote a booklet with this title in 1932, highlighting examples of all these materials on the Cathedral hillside. She knew they were appropriate for the garden of a Gothic-style cathedral. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and Mrs. Bratenahl designed a garden whose structure was defined by these elements, enhanced by herbs, fruit, and flowers found in medieval monastic gardens.

Obviously, the stones of the Bishop’s Garden reflect the stones of the massive Cathedral, and extend beyond the garden to walls and the grass and stone terraces of the All Hallows Amphitheater.

Amphitheater Floor Hazardous

Although the Amphitheater was completed in 2008, its stage predated this construction. The floor of the stage was set not in concrete but in stone dust. It is now breaking up, with cracked and missing stones and ruts made worse by the excessive rains of the last year. In order to bring the stage up to the standard of the beautiful stonework of the rest of the Amphitheater, All Hallows Guild is undertaking the task of repairing and re-laying the stone floor. We are meeting with stone masons to determine the best method of repair to make this structure last as an extended part of “A Garden for the Ages.”

Nitze Garden to be Renewed

At the same time as we consider the Amphitheater repair, we are being forced to act quickly on an even more urgent need: re-laying of the stone wall above the Nitze Garden, adjacent to Sayre House.

Missing and Broken Stones in Nitze Wall

As part of our continuing work of reconsidering and redesigning lesser-known garden areas, we are turning our attention to the Nitze Garden, which has declined as a result of different patterns of shade and sun and invasion by some very determined weeds. Parts of this garden have been torn out during the winter, with the aim of replanting in the spring. We hope to make this a destination garden rather than a “drive-by” space for people motoring down Pilgrim Road. However, the demolition and reconstruction of the stone wall above the garden must be done before plantings are installed. Several tons of rock falling on new plantings would not be conducive to plant survival!

Nitze Wall Collapsing

In recent years we have addressed problems and enhancements relating to Historic Trees (Blue Atlas Cedars); Boxwood (blight and decline of English Box); Yew (Irish Yew do not like climate change), and Stone (the cleaning and repair of medieval and earlier sculptures in the Bishop’s Garden in the autumn). More stone repairs await – and we will keep you informed on their progress.

If you should wish to contribute to the repair and preservation of these portions of our landscape, please go to:  https://allhallowsguild.org/get-involved/donate/ 

The Nitze Garden, August 2018


All Hallows Guild was founded in 1916 to provide for the care and beautification of the grounds of Washington National Cathedral. The Guild works closely with the horticultural staff to preserve this historic landscape and raises funds for renovation and renewal of the gardens.


  • (202) 537-2937
  • ahg@allhallowsguild.org
  • 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW
    Washington, DC 20016


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