Va. cemetery sells new gravesites through lottery

Manassas Cemetery dates back to 1866. Portions of it were reserved for Condeferate soliders. (Courtesy City of Manassas)

WASHINGTON — With their iron gates and storied history, Manassas’ cemeteries have become somewhat of a conundrum for the city and its residents. Both Rose Hill and Manassas cemeteries are filled to capacity, forcing the city to find a creative solution to house its dead.

Residents can enter a lottery to win the right to purchase one of the 124 new gravesites expected to be added to Manassas Cemetery. Each winner can buy up to two plots within those sites.

“The thought is that they will be in high demand,” says Mike Moon, director of public works and utilities.

“We want to come up with a process where there will be a systematic way to deal with this.”

City officials were inspired by a town in Massachusetts that implemented a similar program, Moon says.

Manassas Cemetery was opened in 1866, and was originally for whites only. Rose Hill, built near the turn of the century, was reserved for blacks. Though both cemeteries have moved beyond their segregated past, a sign barring blacks will be removed from the Confederate wing, says buildings and grounds manager Tim Fitzwater.

The new plots will each be 3-and-a-half feet wide and 10 feet long, and cost $4,500. If the price seems hefty, Moon says the city based the cost on the going rate for comparable cemeteries in nearby municipalities.

“We’re only going to sell this once, and then the money is gone,” he says.

All residents over the age of 18 can enter the lottery, which will be advertised for 30 days starting in late August.

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