Charles Cassels, an architect and professor at Federal City College, testified that the D.C. Council of Black Architects endorsed ABC's plan to restore the cemetery and was prepared to provide voluntary services from its member firms.
Lester Collins, retired professor and former chairman of the department of landscape architecture at Harvard University, presented in testimony an imaginative proposal for a restored Mt. Zion Cemetery and the creation of a Memorial Park. He testified that such restoration could be accomplished at nominal cost with volunteer help, and he offered to provide landscaping plans and supervision.
Knox Tull, professor of architecture and engineering at Washington Technical Institute, testified that he was prepared to locate, identify and plot all grave markers for the restoration at no cost.
Finally, Vincent deForest, chairman of ABC, testified that other groups have volunteered their assistance in restoring the cemetery. He announced that ABC had petitioned the Joint Committee on Landmarks of the National Capital
to designate Mt. Zion Cemetery as an Historic Landmark. He admitted again that ABC did not have the funds to purchase the Graveyard.
Subsequently the Court visited Mt. Zion Cemetery for the second time and noted the volunteer work performed in the Dumbarton Church portion of the cemetery and the unkept condition of the Society portion.
On December 13, 1974, the Court issued an Order authorizing ABC and those acting in concert with it to contribute voluntarily their labor and services to remove dead trees, small trees, saplings, trash, and undergrowth from the Female Union Band Society portion of Mt. Zion Cemetery. The Court conditioned the acceptance of such volunteer services on the furnishing of adequate insurance to cover liability or waivers of liability by the volunteers.
On March 27, 1975, ABC moved the Court to amend its December 13 Order to permit additional interim care of the Graveyard. This motion was vigorously opposed by trustee Robert T. Smith at a hearing on April 7. On April 8, 1975, the Court issued an Order authorizing ABC and those acting in concert with it to transcribe the present location of all graves, markers, and memorials; catalog and mark all memorial and burial markers; temporarily remove all markers and monuments for the purpose of grading and filling sunken grave sites; seed and plant appropriate ground cover; and construct a temporary fence or other barrier to restrain persons from dumping trash or refuse on the property. Again ABC was directed to provide liability insurance or waivers of liability.
On July 24, 1975, the Court received a letter from the D.C. Health Department dated July 17, 1975, stating that the Mt. Zion Cemetery, including the west section owned by the Female Union Band Association, is in conformity with Health Department regulations with the exception of leveling the earth over certain sunken graves and providing ground cover. The letter noted that ABC is completing the transcription of grave markers and then intends to fill sunken graves and seed the ground.
The Court has made another visit to the Cemetery and observed that work is progressing.
III. Efforts at Preservation.
At the same time that ABC by leave of Court was making efforts to restore Mt. Zion Cemetery to bring it into conformity with Health Department regulations, it was also trying to find a way to provide perpetual care for the cemetery. ABC petitioned the Joint Committee on Landmarks of the National Capital
to designate Mt. Zion Cemetery an Historic Landmark. A hearing was held on March 7, 1975, at which time the Committee's staff recommended that the petition be granted. Robert T. Smith, one of the trustees of the Graveyard, and Vincent deForest, chairman of ABC, were among those who testified concerning the petition.
On April 29, 1975, the Joint Committee announced its decision granting ABC's petition. The Committee designated Mt. Zion Cemetery an Historic Landmark and recommended it for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. It explained its reasons as follows:
The Mount Zion Cemetery (Methodist Episcopal Burying Grounds; Female Union Band Society Graveyard) qualifies as a Category II Historic Landmark of importance
which contributes significantly to the cultural heritage or visual beauty and interest of the District of Columbia and its environs and which should be preserved or restored for the following reasons:
(1) Its history and that of the generations of Blacks both free and slave interred therein uniquely convey the quality and thrust of Black life and evolving free Black culture in the District of Columbia from the earliest days of the city to the present.