MGM National Harbor and the Graveyard Next Door

MGM National Harbor and the Graveyard Next DoorIn December, 2016, the MGM National Harbor opened in Maryland, with the $1.4 billion integrated casino resort proving a huge hit amongst locals, as well as out-of-state visitors. Despite its plush appearance, one eerie sight a few yards away from the casino’s sleek entrance has caused quite a stir, though, with a cluster of graves on top of a hill all that’s left of a centuries old graveyard which has since been penned in by a parking lot, and two chain-link fences.
The graveyard is the final resting place of dozens of members of the Addison family, whose forefather, John Addison, emigrated from England to Maryland in 1674, before in 1687 purchasing the land where National Harbor’s parking lot stands today. Descendants of the family also had a hand in helping President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass pass the District of Columbia Emancipation Act in 1862, with the Addison family cemetery seen by many as a site of historic importance.
The land these days is owned by real estate development firm Peterson Companies, which originally entered into an agreement with MGM Resorts International to develop the area into the impressive National Harbor resort. Nevertheless, Christian Carter, an African-American ancestor of the Addison family, filed a lawsuit against the casino developer earlier this year, claiming that the company’s land ownership did not include its burial ground.
Carter’s lawsuit has since been dismissed in court, and there are now plans afoot to move the cemeteries remaining bodies four miles down the road to the St. John’s Episcopal Church Broad Creek in Fort Washington, with the process expected to be completed by October. Although opinion is divided on the matter, those in favor of the move see the new 60-by-60-foot plot set aside for the Addison descendants as a more suitable final resting place for the family.
Ahead of the excavation, Rev. Sarah D. Odderstol, the rector of St. John’s, held a service to commemorate the move, whilst also making the assurance that the bodies will be reburied facing the sunrise, the same way they came out, which is a practice observed by Christains in days gone by so that on judgment they may better ascend. As Rev. Odderstol said in her service:
“Hundreds of years ago, when your family first laid its members to rest here, this was the best they had to offer. Quiet. Beautiful. And a stunning view that served as balm for those who grieved the loss of a loved one here. This space is no longer what it once was.”

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