Cemetery of the Week #126: Hollywood Cemetery

Vintage postcard of the monument to Jefferson Davis

Vintage postcard of the monument to Jefferson Davis

Hollywood Cemetery
412 South Cherry Street
Richmond, Virginia 23330
Telephone: 804-648-8501
Email: info@hollywoodcemetery.org
Founded: 1847
Size: 130 acres
Number of interments: approximately 80,000
Open: Daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On the bluffs above the James River stands Richmond, Virginia’s Hollywood Cemetery. It was named for the holly trees that grew on the property, which belonged to Colonel Harvie, whose family plot lies under a stand of trees on the property.

Hollywood has the distinction of being one of only three graveyards where two presidents are buried. The others are Arlington National Cemetery and Quincy, Massachusetts, where the Adamses lie at rest.

Pres Monroe001When he died in 1831, America’s fifth president, James Monroe, was originally buried in New York. In the 1850s, a movement arose to bring all the Virginian presidents home. In 1858, Monroe was exhumed and accompanied home by an honor guard. The ship bearing his body ran aground in the James River and a grandson of Alexander Hamilton was drowned. The Monroe memorial was designed by Albert Lybrock. Through the mullions, you can see the marble sarcophagus covering his remains.  James E. DuPriest Jr.’s Hollywood Cemetery: a Tour said that Monroe’s ornate tomb attracts thousands of visitors to the cemetery each year.

Also buried in the President’s Circle is John Tyler, the 10th president, who took office after William Henry Harrison died from the pneumonia he caught at his own inauguration. During his presidency, Tyler opposed secession, but after the Civil War broke out, he served in the Confederate Congress. He died in Richmond in January 1862 and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery. No exhumations for him. It took until October 1915 for the United States government to forgive him enough to erect the tall square pillar, crowned with a shrouded urn, that marks his grave now. This was the first monument paid for by the US government erected to anyone who had joined the Confederacy.

Jeff Davis horiz001Elsewhere in the graveyard is buried Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederacy.  He was originally buried in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans, but Virginia petitioned to bring his body home.  He was reburied here on Memorial Day 1893.  He is buried near his children. Daughter Winnie, known as the Angel of the Confederacy, died of grief after her father forbade her to marry the grandson of a Northern abolitionist. Davis’s son Joseph died after falling 15 feet from the porch of the Confederate Capitol.  The boy’s grave is marked by a broken column.

Confederate graves

Confederate graves

Also in the graveyard stands a granite pyramid that marks the graves of 12,000 Confederate soldiers.  Many of them were moved from the battlefield at Gettysburg, where their bodies had been left where they’d fallen, even after all the Union bodies were gathered together and reburied in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

At first, the Confederate graves were laid out side by side, marked with wooden boards.  These were the days before dog tags, so many of the bodies could not be identified.  In 1869, the women of Richmond raised $26,000 to build a rough 90-foot-tall pyramid of undressed James River granite.  In 1910, the pyramid was covered with English ivy and Virginia creeper. Now the rock is bare and is dedicated to the 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried in Hollywood Cemetery.

Vintage postcard of the Confederate monument, postmarked 1910

Vintage postcard of the Confederate monument, postmarked 1910

Also buried in the cemetery are six Virginia governors, many of the founding fathers of Richmond, and 25 Confederate generals, more than any other cemetery in America.  Among those are J.E.B. Stuart, who died in a battle called Yellow Tavern, and George Pickett, who ordered the suicidal charge on Cemetery Hill at the battle of Gettysburg.

Finally, William Burke, who taught Edgar Allan Poe, is also buried here.

The cemetery office is open 8:30 to 4:30 during the week to sell books and maps.  They also sell the books and walking tour guides on their website.  The cemetery offers daily walking tours from April to October at 10 a.m. from Monday through Saturday.

Useful links:

Hollywood Cemetery’s homepage, which has a great slideshow

A history of Hollywood Cemetery from the National Park Service

Visitor info for Hollywood Cemetery & other Richmond attractions

A numbered map of the cemetery

Some photos of the graveyard & a list of famous burials

Wikipedia recommends two histories of the cemetery: John O. Peters’ Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery (2010) and Mary H. Mitchell’s Hollywood Cemetery (1999).  I haven’t read either, so I can’t provide any pointers. Let me know if you develop a preference.

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About Loren Rhoads

I am the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. Scribner published my favorite essays from Morbid Curiosity magazine as Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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4 Responses to Cemetery of the Week #126: Hollywood Cemetery

  1. coastalcrone says:

    You did an excellent job of giving us some of the history! Somehow this cemetery struck me as having a very sad history. But then I did just read a rather unusual and sad obit posted on another blog. I will be ready for Friday Happy Hour – cheers!

    • Loren Rhoads says:

      I haven’t had a chance to visit this cemetery yet, but it looks lovely. I’m sorry it made you sad, but I support Friday Happy Hour fully. I hope it helped!

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