Archive for the ‘Hollywood Cemetery’ Category

Monument to Confederate War Dead at Hollywood

Pyramid monument to Confederate War Dead at Hollywood CemeteryWHAT: Monument to Confederate War Dead.

LOCATION: Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond’s Oregon Hill neighborhood.

ARTIST: Design originated from engineer Charles Henry Dimmock.

DEDICATION: November 8, 1869. (Cornerstone was laid Dec. 3, 1868)

DESCRIPTION: The famed 90-foot pyramid is made with large blocks of James River granite. The blocks were stacked without bonding. Built overlooking the cemetery’s Soldiers’ Section. It is a monument to the 18,000 Confederate enlisted men buried in the cemetery.

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Pyramid monument to Confederate War Dead at HollywoodThe pyramid took a year to build and there were many accidents during construction. Thomas Stanley, a Lynchburg convict working with the construction crew, made the perilous climb to the top to lower the capstone into place.

The plaque reads: “A memorial to the Confederate women of Virginia, 1861-1865. The legislature of Virginia of 1914, has at the solicitation of Ladies Hollywood Memorial Association and United Daughters of Confederacy of Virginia placed in perpetual care this section where lie buried eighteen thousand confederate soldiers.

Capstone to the pyramid atop Monument to Confederate War Dead at Hollywood CemeteryA chapter (Oct. 1996) in Harry Kollatz Jr.’s book, True Richmond Stories, retold the tale of the capstone’s placement, and how prisoner Thomas Stanley — assumed to have come from the nearby state penitentiary on Gamble’s Hill — volunteered to perform the dangerous honor:

And thus it was that a horse thief came to be on the work gang for Dimmock’s pyramid. The knots in the hoisting ropes were tied too close to the top and the stone wouldn’t go past them. Stanley poured water on the ropes, causing them to shrink the needed inches. Then, as a breathless crowd watched, the prisoner put himself between the mass of hanging rock and the pyramid and righted the stone to its seat.

Everyone that has heard of this legend assumes that Stanley went free after this accomplishment. Kollatz’s story cleared that up, somewhat:

In the release box of his prison schedule, the simple penciled notation reads “transferred.” There is no mention of when or where. A romantic notion suggests itself: the warden opened a gate and told Stanley to go and never come back…

Pyramid at Hollywood CemeterySeeing this monument is an essential to anyone that visits Richmond. The first time I saw the pyramid, I was shocked by its size and towering presence in the scenic cemetery. It can be seen from many points near Oregon Hill. It is easy to imagine the stones being brought in from either the Kanawha Canal — located just below Hollywood — or Belle Isle — just a bit further below the canal and across the James River.


J.E.B. Stuart’s Yellow Tavern memorial

Monument to J.E.B. Stuart on Old Telegraph Road at Yellow Tavern in HenricoMajor General James Ewell Brown Stuart was born Feb. 6, 1833, and died May 12, 1864, in the “The Battle of Yellow Tavern,” which was fought between Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan’s Cavalry and the Confederates Cavalry under Stuart.

JEB Stuart monument at Yellow TavernLate in the battle on May 11, 1864, Sheridan attacked Stuart on the high ground of this position, shattering the Confederate line. While trying to rally his men, Stuart was mortally wounded at a spot just off Old Telegraph Road.

Stuart is honored with a monument enclosed by an iron fence [slideshow]. A plaque at the site reads:

“This monument, erected in memory of Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart, C.S.A. by his cavalrymen about thirty feet from the spot where he fell mortally wounded on May 11, 1864, was dedicated June 18, 1888, by the Governor of Virginia, Fitzhugh Lee, a former division commander in Stuart’s cavalry.”

It was re-dedicated May 9, 1964, by the Henrico County Civil War Centennial Commission. 

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Old Telegraph Road is a historic route from Richmond to Washington. It was replaced by U.S. Route 1, which was later replaced by Interstate 95 as the main road to D.C. The name comes from the fact that it was located along the telegraph line connecting Richmond and Washington.

The unique thing to me about visiting this monument is that Old Telegraph Road is now a little-used, no outlet neighborhood street. The memorial is on a knoll among some older brick ranch houses.

The monument is quite hidden and inconspicuous.  This is not in a high-profile location, despite the nearby junction of I-295 and Route 1 with Virginia Center Commons and the rest of the busy strip malls and restaurants in this spot in northern Henrico County. 

Stuart is an intriguing figure in the history of the Civil War. He was major general — chief of cavalry — in the Army of Northern Virginia, Confederate States of America.

While he cultivated a cavalier image, his serious work made him the eyes and ears of Robert E. Lee’s army and inspired Southern morale. He is honored in a much more prominent location on Monument Avenue [slideshow] in The Fan District in Richmond — the capitol of his Confederacy at the time of his death. Stuart is buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

J.E.B. Stuart's grave at Hollywood Cemetery

J.E.B. Stuart's grave at Hollywood Cemetery

Shockoe & Hollywood not only neglected cemeteries in Richmond

Katherine Calos of the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote an excellent story on the volunteer “Friends of” groups that have been organized to help maintain and restore Richmond’s famous Hollywood Cemetery in Oregon Hill and the lesser-celebrated Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Jackson Ward.

The cemeteries, both on the National Register of Historic Places, are the burial grounds for some of Virginia’s most prominent people: U.S. presidents, Supreme Court justices, governors and mayors.

Now the cemeteries are benefiting from two volunteer organizations — Friends of Hollywood Cemetery and Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery — that formed recently to bring new attention to the riches and the needs of each place.

Burial plot at Shockoe Hill Cemetery for John Marshall, former chief justice of the United States

It’s good to see something positive written about our historic cemeteries, rather than reports of vandalism, robbery or storm damage.

Hollywood is famous for many reasons and is a tourist attraction for the city.  Shockoe Hill does not have that advantage. A few years ago when I worked for the Times-Dispatch and the Discover Richmond website, I realized that I had never been to any of Richmond’s “other” historic cemeteries. In 2007, I made it my goal to visit as many as I could.

I made a stop on the way to work on morning at Shockoe Hill [see slideshow] — It reminded me of Hollywood for the artistry of the headstones and the fact that it has several famous figures in Richmond’s history — including the Civil War — but the maintainance wasn’t quite what you’d expect at Hollywood.

Hebrew Cemetery in Jackson Ward

Hebrew Cemetery in Jackson Ward

Across Hospital Street, Hebrew Cemetery [see slideshow] is much smaller, so the plots and stones are packed in tight. There is no lack of ornamentation or interesting ironwork in this resting place. You can find so many great family names in our city’s history there as well. My visit there was brief, but the artistic images of that day are still etched in my mind.

A disappointment, I visited the Jewish Cemetery [see slideshow] in Shockoe Bottom expecting to see many stones. Almost all of the markers were moved long ago, and only the large gate is worth seeing.

Fort Harrison National Cemetery in Varina

Of course, there are many Civil War burial grounds that are part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park sites.  My favorite is at Cold Harbor National Cemetery, but I have also visited Glendale, Fort Harrison, Richmond and even City Point in Hopewell.  

The cemeteries are all somewhat similar and the upkeep for these resting places has much more financial backing, but I was told by a groundskeeper at Glendale that the number of visitors to these hallowed grounds are diminishing. I expect that will change as we approach the Sesquicentennial — the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War (2011-2015).

The cemetery at Blandford Church [see slideshow] is Petersburg’s version of Hollywood Cemetery and is a treasure worth visiting — especially for the Tiffany glass windows inside the church [see slideshow].

Since those visits to most of the cemeteries, I haven’t made many returns (other than Hollywood). The best thing I found about going the cemeteries — besides the artistic beauty I find in the stone markers contrasting with sun and the natural surroundings — is that I have a deeper appreciation for our history and the people who made it. 

When I pass over the Shockoe Valley bridge on Interstate 64 headed toward Richmond, the Hebrew Cemetery is in full view. The tall brick walls surrounding Shockoe Hill Cemetery can also be seen from the highway. Sitting on the rocks at Belle Isle or crossing the Robert E. Lee Bridge downtown, you can see the headstones and the majestic hillside at Hollywood Cemetery. 

There are also other needy and forgotten cemeteries like Oakwood and Evergreen — which the RTD’s Michael Paul Williams has covered extensively. Oakwood was in the news recently for a new iron fence added to a memorial and Evergreen has had several weekend cleanups. 

I plan to volunteer with one of these friends groups some weekend to help clean these cemeteries. Respect these places. Honor the memories of the heroes of Richmond’s past.

Very Richmond #4: Iron Dog at Hollywood Cemetery


Iron Dog is one of the more popular legends of Richmond

Hollywood Cemetery, located in the Oregon Hill neighborhood, ranks high on most Richmonders’ lists of places to show visitors. It was established in 1847 by private citizens who wanted a cemetery to rival Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass. It was founded in 1849 as a “rural decorated cemetery” and as early as 1851, the cemetery had become a public park. It now contains more than 52,000 monuments and graves of many famous Americans.

One of the best liked and well-known monuments is the cast-iron Newfoundland standing guard over a grave. Iron Dog is by far more famous as a curiosity than for the person buried there. In fact, there are many versions of the Iron Dog story, and the Valentine Richmond History Center helped to identify several.

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Iron Dog

What is fairly certain is that a female toddler is buried there, last name Rees. I’ve seen at least three first names — Florence, Elizabeth and Bernadine, with the latter being the most likely. She apparently died of a childhood disease (maybe scarlet fever) in 1862 before she reached the age of 3.

A fine article by Walter S. Griggs Jr. in the Summer 2006 Richmond Guide has three versions of how Iron Dog got to the area he notes became known as “Black Dog Hill”:

  1. It was moved to the gravesite to keep it from being melted down to make bullets. “Even a desperate nation did not melt down cemetery monuments.”
  2. Iron Dog’s owner remembered how much the girl liked to pat the statue, so he gave it to her family to guard her grave.
  3. The girl’s family bought Iron Dog and placed it at the grave as a memorial to her.

Yet another version of the story has her father placing Iron Dog on the burial plot long before the girl died, as detailed in this undated entry from the Richmond Times-Dispatch archives:

Some local 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. Even local churches — with the exception of First Baptist Church on Monument and Boulevard — gave up their church bells during the war years.

Another twist that seems easy to debunk is that the Iron Dog came from Petersburg. That seems erroneous. A letter to the editor at the RTD (date unknown) says the dog belonged to Charles R. Rees who ran “photography gallery” in Richmond during the Civil War. Iron Dog was kept at the store and was moved by Rees to Hollywood Cemetery to keep it from being melted down for bullets. The letter was penned by a woman named Ada R. Bailey who claimed to be Rees’ granddaughter. She said Rees moved to Petersburg in 1880 — several years after the dog was first placed in the cemetery — backing the theory that the dog was from a Richmond store.

No matter which version you want to believe, the lore of the story is what people seem to love most. Trinkets, toys, coins and flowers are often said to be found at the grave and on the black Iron Dog, as if we all have some relation to the little girl and her famous guardian.


Iron Dog watches over the grave of a girl, who died as a toddler

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