Exploring Hollywood Cemetery

Guest Writer: Kieran Wall

“My main focus is writing about historic and cultural topics around RVA. I am in the 8th grade attending the IB Program at Moody Middle School and have loved history for as long as I can remember. I enjoy reading, writing, and rock climbing as well as spending time with friends.”

Hollywood Cemetery is arguably one of RVA’s most well known historical locations, but how much do you actually know about Richmond’s most famous cemetery?
Hollywood Cemetery was established in 1847 by William Haxal and Joshua Fry, inspired by cemeteries they had seen on a trip to Boston. They were struck by the natural beauty of the Hollywood Cemetery grounds, and began construction. They decided to name their cemetery Hollywood Cemetery due to the high volume of beautiful holly trees throughout the property. The first burial was conducted in 1849 and Hollywood Cemetery officially opened.
Maybe the most famous gravesite in Hollywood is the final resting place of President James Monroe. A little known fact is that he actually wasn’t originally buried in Hollywood, but was exhumed and moved to the cemetery 18 years after his death. His tomb is notable as it does not exactly look like your traditional gravesight. In fact, it looks more like a birdcage (which is its nickname)! The unconventional grave was constructed the way it is by German architect Alfred Lybrock in an effort to distinguish the grave from others. The cage also doubled as a built in anti-grave robbing system. The “Birdcage” is now a keynote feature of Hollywood Cemetery.
On the other side of the cemetery from the Monroe Tomb lies another unique monument. Known as the “Pyramid” it is a memorial to fallen Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. As the Civil War went on, more and more Confederate soldiers were buried in Hollywood Cemetery. There was even a special section devoted to the burial of Confederate soldiers since so many chose to be buried in the cemetery. To remember this part of Hollywood Cemetery’s history, in 1869 a 90 foot pyramid of stone was erected. Now, the Pyramid reminds visitors of the over 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried in Hollywood Cemetery.
Smaller than the Pyramid, and lesser known than the Birdcage, one of the most heartfelt monuments is of a dog. Known as the Iron Dog, the cast iron statue is of a Newfoundland Dog. The statue stands guard over the grave of a girl who died in 1862. There are several stories of how the dog was involved with the girl’s life, but for most people walking by the dog, he is a symbol of the loyalty of a loving pet. The Iron Dog is now a much loved and cared for monument in Hollywood Cemetery.
There is no way to go over every monument and its significance in Hollywood Cemetery, but I hope you learned something new about a cemetery that truly represents the RVA spirit!


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