In 1898 the first Bishop of Washington, Henry Yates Satterlee, began to acquire the Cathedral’s site for the Protestant Episcopal Foundation. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., was asked to ready the land for the laying of the cathedral’s cornerstone on September 29, 1907. In a talk given in 1919, Mr. Olmsted spoke about the "great charm of approaching the Cathedral through and up a wooded hillside, leaving the city far behind and below. Helping one to forget the hurly-burly and busy-ness of a work-a-day world must be taken advantage of to the fullest extent." In 1955, the Cathedral received the Founder’s Fund Award of the Garden Club of America (in the amount of $1,500) for the creation of the Woodland Path in the Olmsted Woods.
The Olmsted Woods are the last vestige of an extensive oak and beech forest on Mount St. Alban – now the site of Washington National Cathedral and the three Cathedral Schools. 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. Currently the Guild is working with engineers to assess how new construction on the Cathedral Close has impacted the drainage and runoff in the Olmsted Woods. We are also exploring options for replacing the footbridge in the Woods - which was closed following damage caused by a fallen tree.
All Hallows Amphitheater
An amphitheater was part of Olmsted's plan for the Cathedral Close – the first amphitheater serving as a place for outdoor services. The All Hallows Amphitheater was designed in 2005 by Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd. The amphitheater includes plantings of native trees, shrubs, and flowers that mirror the oak and beech woodland plantings in the surrounding Olmsted Woods. This beautiful outdoor space of curved stone walls and grass walkways has become a perfect setting for worship, contemplation and performance.
Visiting the Woods
Birdwalks through the woods are scheduled during the May and the September migration. Come walk with us at 8:30 am. We meet at the George Washington Statue on Pilgrim Road. Check our Calendar for the dates.
Volunteering in the Woods
We welcome individuals and groups to join our efforts to maintain the Olmsted Woods. Olmsted Woods volunteers meet regularly from April to November on Wednesday mornings. Join us at 9:00 am near the George Washington equestrian statue on Pilgrim Road. Contact Peter Spaulding at: firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our Volunteer Form.
Help us Keep the
Partner with us to ensure that the 59 acres of gardens and grounds surrounding Washington National Cathedral continue to be a haven of peace and refreshment in the midst of the Nation’s Capital.