Vintage Photos of Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery

Boston terrier paying respects to Skippy. August 15, 1946. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post
Boston terrier paying respects to Skippy. August 15, 1946. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post

The photographs in this post are from Evening Star newspaper, which ceased publication in 1981.  The District of Columbia (DC) Public Library holds the photo morgue for the newspaper, which is archived in its Washingtoniana Collection.  The images appear on this blog with permission of the DC Public Library.

Rocky, the Boston terrier in the photo above, belonged to George and Gertrude Young.  It was the Youngs who erected the mausoleum in honor of Mickey, another one of their Boston terriers.
The Youngs owned and operated Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals from 1944 to 1961.

Timmons monument. Evening Star staff photographer F. Routt. August 16, 1946. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post
Timmons monument. Evening Star staff photographer F. Routt. August 16, 1946. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post

The Timmons monument (above), featuring a tall slab flanked by two life-sized statues of cats, appears a pristine white.  Timmie the Cat is buried there, along with dozens of other stray animals.

Below are two more photographs of the general view of the cemetery which were taken the same day.  Notice how white the grave stones were in 1946, in orderly rows among the neatly trimmed shrubbery.

Cemetery scene. August 16, 1946. Evening Star staff photographer F. Routt. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post
Cemetery scene. August 16, 1946. Evening Star staff photographer F. Routt. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post
Cemetery scene. August 16, 1946. Evening Star staff photographer F. Routt. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post
Cemetery scene. August 16, 1946. Evening Star staff photographer F. Routt. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post

The next photograph is a reminder that in addition to being the finally resting place for thousands of pets and a few dozen humans, it was also a home to its owners.  Martha Nash (below) ran the cemetery with her husband, S. Alfred Nash, from 1961 to his death in 1976.  She continued to run the Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery until the late 1980s.  Here is Mrs. Nash in the yard with her dogs.  Behind her, cars are stopped at the traffic light at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Aspen Hill Road. You can also see the office for Gate of Heaven Cemetery across the street.

Mrs. Nash with her dogs. October 24, 1977. Evening Star staff photographer Willard Volz. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post
Mrs. Nash with her dogs. October 24, 1977. Evening Star staff photographer Willard Volz. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post

Here’s another general view of the cemetery, taken in 1977.

Cemetery scene. October 24, 1977. Evening Star staff photographer Willard Volz. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post
Cemetery scene. October 24, 1977. Evening Star staff photographer Willard Volz. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post

James Thompson began working for the pet cemetery around 1968 and stayed there until well into the 2000s.  This photo, taken in 1972, shows him at work.  To this day, people still speak fondly of James.  I’ve been told that he would buy peanuts to feed the squirrels, and that he cared for a feral cat colony which once roamed the cemetery.

Grave digger James Thompson lowers a pet into a grave. February 1, 1972. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post
Grave digger James Thompson lowers a pet into a grave. February 1, 1972. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post

There is a lovely tribute to him in a 1979 article from the Montgomery Journal:  “But Thompson’s true value seems to be his ability to put people at ease during the often-traumatic funerals through an unspoken empathy.  A smile, which could so easily be interpreted as a sign of ridicule in a pet cemetery, instead becomes the unmistakable sign of compassion on Thompson’s face.  And it is for this reason that many of the regulars know Thompson not by his name, but by his nickname — Smiley.”

Sources consulted:

Stepp, John W. “All Were Loved,” Evening Star, September 15, 1946. pg. 2.

Mullin, Sue. “A Different Kind of Cemetery,” Evening Star, November 2, 1977. Maryland Section, pg. 1.

Ahlers, Mike. “Fuzzy Companions Rest in Peace at Aspin Hill,” Montgomery Journal, December 28, 1979.

5 thoughts on “Vintage Photos of Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery”

  1. Thanks for doing the research to locate and share these amazing photos! I’d love to see side by side comparisons for each photo showing the area as it is today. I guess I really need to take a tour of the place!!

  2. Julianne, thank you SO much for these stories!! You are a veritable fountain of knowledge when it comes to the cemetery and I want so much to learn everything I can about it from you!! As 12/31/18 (my last day at work!) approaches, I look forward to ways I can learn from you (without being a pain in the a**!) 🙂

  3. I truly look forward to these articles. I have always loved the art, beauty, and emotion of cemeteries and to be able to have this place that combines that with my love of animals is amazing. Thank you teaching me more about a place I have lived 5 minutes away from most of my life!

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