Sight-Seeing: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA

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August 14, 2012 by magpiemenina

Jaybird and I went to Richmond again this past weekend. Jaybird met up with a friend to play and record some music. I decided to wander around Hollywood Cemetery. The day was pleasantly cool (for Virginia – and I should mention we’re both originally from the Midwest) and overcast, so it was a good day to be outside.

The Iron Dog at Hollywood Cemetery

Hollywood Cemetery is a massive Rural Park cemetery in Richmond, overlooking the James River. Rural Park cemeteries were the precursors to our modern parks, and were used to similar ends. The ‘type specimen,’ if you will, is Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts, established in 1831. Hollywood Cemetery dates to 1847 (Hollywood Cemetery website). These rural cemeteries were developed as a reaction to the overcrowded, noisome graveyards frequently located in the confines of cities. Rural park cemeteries are characterized by winding paths, ‘natural’ plantings of trees and shrubs, scattered graves (as opposed to more linear patterns that we find more commonly today), and often elaborate markers and mausoleums. These cemeteries were located on the outskirts of towns and provided a natural environment open to the public at a time when the Industrial Revolution was trapping more and more people indoors at factories. People went for rides, picnics, and other outings (again, just as we use parks today).* Hollywood is excellently kept, and still a pleasure to walk through today.

There are a number of notable persons buried there, including James Monroe – U.S. President (whose marker is encased in an elaborate iron structure resembling a Victorian bird cage); John Tyler – U.S. President; and Jefferson Davis – President of the Confederate States, to name a few. The Hollywood Cemetery website has an excellent slide show with information about famous persons buried there that I encourage you to check out.

I could share the pictures I took of the graves of distinguished persons, or of the Confederate War Memorial (which is very striking). However, those pictures are easy to find online, and the graves easy to find in the cemetery using the map at the cemetery entrance or taking a guided walking tour. Instead, I am going to share with you a number of the animal statues I saw, because they are rather endearing. They may be a reaction to the well-known “iron dog” landmark in the cemetery, which appears on the website’s virtual map, as well as having his own article here, at a great blog I just ran across devoted to Richmond. At any rate, I think the animal statuary serves to express a great deal of the feelings of those who placed them there.

There are plenty of markers with animal and bird motifs, but I decided to focus on the statuary in this post. This is the one exception – I couldn’t resist the carving on the Pool mausoleum.

This is my other exception. These beautiful birds are so striking.

*I have spent quite a lot of time doing general cemetery research, including for a senior project in undergrad. I draw heavily on, and highly recommend, David Charles Sloane’s The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History (Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 1995).


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