Posted by: buyandsellcemeteryplots | January 13, 2008

Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA

Hollywood Cemetery, near Richmond’s Oregon Hill neighborhood, ranks high on most Richmonders’ lists of places to show visitors. It contains the graves of many famous Americans, including U.S. Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. Hollywood has a lot more to offer the visitor than history. The cemetery’s 52,000 monuments — many of them extremely ornate — make Hollywood the biggest art museum in Richmond … perhaps in Virginia.

Hollywood was established in 1847 by private citizens who wanted a cemetery to rival Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass., where Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science faith, is buried with a telephone.

Elaborate ironwork and mausoleums share the grounds with the boldness of a pyramid made from James River stones and the delicacy of a Tiffany stained-glass window. Art was a big factor from the very beginning of the cemetery. It was founded as a “rural decorated cemetery” and was soon shaped to the Richmond way of life.

A landscape architect from Philadelphia came up with Hollywood’s name because he was so impressed with the many holly trees growing there. In the beginning, the name was Holly Wood — two words.

The first burial in Hollywood was in June 1849 — an infant. Even as early as 1851, the cemetery had become a public park. There were already four monuments (more than simple tombstones) and a local reporter described it as something of which the city should be proud.

Of the approximately 61,000 people buried in the cemetery, about 18,000 were Confederate soldiers. Some were killed in the war; some died long after the war. Many killed in the war have no identity. Hollywood has many unknown soldiers.

The cemetery’s most impressive sight is the huge stone pyramid dedicated in 1869 to honor the dead Confederates. The pyramid, 90 feet high, contains stones pulled from the James River near Richmond. It was built by labor from the nearby State Penitentiary.

Hollywood is loaded with lore. One of the best stories is about a cast-iron statue of a dog guards the grave of a little girl, Bernadine Rees, who died of scarlet fever in the early 1800s. Oddly, her father placed the cast-iron Newfoundland on the burial plot long before Bernadine died at age 3. Why? This 19th-century question still intrigues visitors to the cemetery. Some historians think Rees’ father was simply preserving a family treasure in hard times. The Confederate government was confiscating cast iron from families during the Civil War.
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