Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood Cemetery’

Finding the ways we honor U.S. Presidents in Richmond

Thomas Jefferson has a statue in the lobby of the Jefferson HotelRichmond has statues, monuments or cemetery statuary for five U.S. Presidents:

For the Southerners, Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederacy and has a monument on Monument Avenue and is buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

See more statues and monuments or check for where they are located on the Statues and Monuments page.


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.

Dr. Hunter Holms McGuire at Capitol Square

Dr. Hunter Holms McGuire at Capitol Square

Dr. Hunter Holms McGuire at Capitol SquareWHAT: Statue of Dr. Hunter Holms McGuire at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia.

LOCATION: Capitol Square, Northern Edge.

ARTIST: William Couper.

DEDICATED: January 7, 1904.

DESCRIPTION: A seated bronze figure 6 foot high in a heavy armchair on a 7 foot high granite base. Dr. McGuire was President of the American Medical and American Surgical Associations and founded the University College of Medicine which merged to form the Virginia Commonwealth University / Medical College of Virginia in 1913.

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Dr. Hunter Holms McGuire (Oct. 11, 1835 to Sept. 19, 1900). The inscription on his granite base reads:

Hunter Holmes McGuire, M.D., LL.D., President of the American Medical and of the American Surgical Associations; Founder of the University College of Medicine; Medical Director, Jackson’s Corps, Army of Northern Virginia; an eminent civil and military surgeon, and beloved physician; an able teacher and vigorous writer, a useful citizen and broad humanitarian, gifted in mind and generous in heart, this monument is erected by his friends.

He is buried at Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.

Dr. Hunter Holms McGuire at Hollywood Cemetery

General A.P. Hill’s statue on Laburnum Avenue

Confederate General A.P. Hill statue in Richmond, Virginia

Confederate General Ambrose Powell Hill in Richmond, VirginiaWHAT: Confederate General Ambrose Powell Hill in Richmond, Virginia.

LOCATION: Laburnum Avenue and Hermitage Road in the center of the intersection.

ARTIST: William Ludwell Sheppard.

DEDICATION: May 30, 1892.

DESCRIPTION: A 9 1/2 foot high standing likeness of General Hill which is mounted on a 24 1/2 foot high pedestal which contains the remains of the General. The monument is on land donated by Major Lewis Ginter and was erected by the efforts of Pegram’s Battalion. Caspar Burberl of New York enlarged in bronze Sheppard’s model.

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The tale of how Hill came to rest in the middle of Laburnum Avenue is a good one, best told by Gary Robertson in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in April, 2005, 140 years after the general’s death:

Confederate Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill was buried standing up. It took three tries before he reached his final resting place.

And if all that wasn’t odd enough, the search to find his first grave — and perhaps correct the historical record — has been led by a group of Civil War devotees whose primary focus is illuminating not the life of Hill, but of another Confederate general, George E. Pickett.

A member of the Pickett Society noted that the nonprofit society was formed in 1999 to honor Pickett but also to correct “many subjective and historically incorrect items and pretensions.”

Hill was shot to death near Petersburg on April 2, 1865, as his battle lines were collapsing during the last days of the war. Then the race was on to bury him appropriately — and before nature took its course and ravaged his body even further.

Research by the Pickett Society indicates that the first burial came not where some Civil War researchers believe it was, at Bellgrade Plantation, near Huguenot and Robious roads in Chesterfield County.

Pickett Society records at the Virginia Historical Society and other research from local historians and authors, instead indicate that Hill was buried in an area south of the James River near Bosher Dam, in what is now the city of Richmond.

Hill lay in that grave for two years before he was unearthed and his remains transferred in the autumn of 1867 to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, which was where some of his former soldiers wanted him.

In 1891, the remains were moved again and buried under a statue erected in Hill’s honor at the current intersection of Laburnum Avenue and Hermitage Road. 

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.

Click for a larger image

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