Monroe & Tyler in President’s Circle at Hollywood Cemetery

Every visitor to Richmond needs to have Hollywood Cemetery on their list of must-see attractions. It was founded in 1849 as a “rural decorated cemetery” and was soon shaped to the Richmond way of life. It has often been referred to as the biggest art gallery in the city.

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President's Circle

I will occasionly write about Hollywood Cemetery. I love to take pictures there when I can. Today, President’s Circle is my focus. I read some interesting information on the two presidents buried on this high ground overlooking the James River and Belle Isle from a tour book called Hollywood Cemetery: A Tour by James DuPriest Jr.

First, James Monroe:

Monroe was the last of the “Virginia Dynasty” of Presidents…By the time he left the Presidency he was nearly bankrupt. Public officials were not paid enough even to support themselves in the early days of the Republic, and as a result all of our early Presidents left office poorer than when they came in.

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James Monroe's monument

He was never able to get back on his feet financially and died a pauper in New York City in 1831.

There was a movement in the mid-1850s to gather the remains of all Virginia presidents and bury them in Richmond. New York agreed to allow Monroe to the moved. The book to details his memorial:

A unique Victorian Gothic structure done in cast iron…which even today attracts thousands of visitors to Hollywood for a first-hand look.

The extinct Discover Richmond website had this to say about the monument:

Quickly dubbed “the bird cage” by critics, the iron design covers the grave with a structure 12 feet tall that is said to be inspired by the iron grills found around statues in some European cathedrals.

John Tyler also has a series of sad turns toward the end of his life.

He was unique in two ways…[He] became the only U.S. President to ever take part in an attempt to destroy [the] Union.

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John Tyler

Tyler took over as President after William Henry Harrison died from pneumonia “contracted while standing in the rain as he gave the longest inaugural address in history.” Tyler stood his ground when Congress tried to limit his powers and fought for his rights as President “with great vigor and courage.”

When Tyler left office in 1845, he was a rejected and a forgotten man and didn’t re-enter the national scene until 1861, the book details.

He died in 1862 while serving in the Confederate Congress and the second “unique” thing about him occurs:

Over 50 years [after his burial at Hollywood], the federal government finally forgave Tyler and in October, 1915, dedicated the monument you now see. This was the first monument erected by the U.S. government to anyone who had joined the Confederacy.

Lastly, the view of the James and downtown Richmond from the knoll at the President’s Circle is one of the best from the cemetery. I love the photo and hope to someday take one even better.


View from President's Circle in Hollywood Cemetery


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