You are here

Hollywood Cemetery

-A A +A
1847, John Notman. Later additions. Cherry St.
  • Hollywood Cemetery (Virginia Division of Historic Resources)
  • Hollywood Cemetery (Michelle Krone)
  • Hollywood Cemetery (Michelle Krone)
  • Hollywood Cemetery (Michelle Krone)
  • Hollywood Cemetery (Michelle Krone)
  • Hollywood Cemetery (Michelle Krone)
  • Hollywood Cemetery (Michelle Krone)
  • Confederate Memorial, Richmond (Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)
  • Hollywood Cemetery, James Monroe Tomb, drawing by Oswald J. Heinrich (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

An important example of a rural cemetery, Hollywood originated in 1847 when a group of Richmonders sought to create a picturesque cemetery on a narrow tract of rugged terrain with spectacular vistas of Richmond. They commissioned John Notman of Philadelphia, a Scottish-born and -educated architect, who had designed Mount Laurel Cemetery in Philadelphia and Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. After overcoming opposition in the Virginia General Assembly to granting a charter, the Hollywood Company began work on the project in 1848. The chapel marks the original entrance to Hollywood and the beginning of the area planned by Notman. Basically the plan encompassed a ravine running north-south and four hills on its west side. Although Laurel Hill was decidedly classical in plan, here Notman chose to work with the natural lay of the land, and Hollywood is more picturesque. Notman laid out the cemetery by walking the site and employing a topographical survey; he suggested the name because of the site's many holly trees. Notman's plan served as a template the Hollywood Company used for later expansions to the cemetery.

Initially Richmonders were skeptical, and few lots were sold in the early 1850s. However, the re-interment there of President James Monroe in 1858 firmly established the popularity of the cemetery in the community. The parklike setting made Hollywood a popular destination for Richmonders throughout the nineteenth century. During the Civil War the cemetery became the burying ground for Confederate soldiers who had died on battlefields and in hospitals in the Richmond area. After the war, the re-interment and burial of Confederate soldiers and notables, combined with the erection of a number of significant monuments, made Hollywood Cemetery a focal point of the cult of the Lost Cause. Mary Mitchell, author of the definitive history of Hollywood, has aptly referred to it as a “southern shrine.” The Hollywood Company successfully expanded the cemetery over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, acquiring additional property to the west. The cemetery still admits burials.

The tour of the cemetery can be driven or undertaken as a fairly vigorous walk by following the blue line on the pavement. Visitors are cautioned to observe the rules of the cemetery posted at the gates.

The Superintendent's House (1894, George P. Barber; W. A. Chesterman, builder), a rambling Queen Anne dwelling, replaced an earlier structure for the superintendent. Chesterman owned a small planing mill in Richmond and also built houses. Apparently he ordered plans from Knoxville architect Barber, who had recently published The Cottage Souvenir (1888). The house built at Hollywood Cemetery has all the Barber trademarks of several different roof forms, including a clipped gable; a tower topped by a cupola; and a wide porch. The Hollywood Cemetery Chapel (1877, Henry Exall; 1897, Marion J. Dimmock), designed by an English-born and -trained architect, began as a Gothic “ruin” straddling the original entrance; the southern portion is still visible. The practical needs of the cemetery eventually outweighed the aesthetics of a ruin. Dimmock employed the northern portion of the ruin as the base of the tower and attached a chapel. The original entrance to the cemetery is marked by the ornamental iron gates. The present cemetery gates were constructed in the early twentieth century.

The Confederate Section and Confederate Monument (1863, burial lots; 1867–1868, monument, Charles H. Dimmock) was acquired and laid out in an impromptu manner to accommodate the war dead. In 1866 the federal government decided not to allow the burial of Confederate soldiers in national cemeteries. In response, the Hollywood Ladies' Memorial Association organized what is credited with being the first Memorial Day celebration. The association commissioned the monument, one of the earliest Confederate monuments in the South. The rough granite pyramid perfectly captures the picturesque aesthetic of early Hollywood and met the financial limitations of the immediate postwar era. In 1869 the Ladies' Memorial Association reburied the majority of southern dead from the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Over the course of the late nineteenth century the Confederate Section was the setting for a number of events to memorialize the Lost Cause. The speaker's stand (1876) and the Pickett Monument are other noteworthy features.

Ellis Avenue (c. 1850–c. 1870) affords some of the best vantage points for viewing funerary art and architecture. Included in the area is an impressive array of statuary, columns, ironwork, obelisks, and Gothic Revival monuments. Ellis Avenue also provides a central point for viewing Notman's plan. The Weddell Monument (1950, Charles Gillette, landscape architect) was designed for Ambassador Alexander and Virginia Weddell's landscape architect, who worked on their Virginia House (see entry, below).

The Monroe Monument and Circle (RI251.1) (1858, Alfred Lybrock) resulted from an effort to gain popularity and respectability for the cemetery. The Hollywood Company donated this circle at the southwest corner of the Notman plan for the reburial of James Monroe. With considerable fanfare Monroe's body was returned to his native state from New York City in 1858. The fifth president's final resting place is distinguished by a cast iron crypt that might be described as a Gothic temple. The German-born and -trained architect Lybrock conceived of the monument as painted to resemble stone. Davis Circle (1877, C. P. E. Burgwyn, planner; 1899, 1906, George J. Zolnay, sculptor) marks the northwest terminus of the 1877 expansion of the cemetery. In a manner similar to its donation of land for the Monroe monument, the Hollywood Company gave the circle in 1877 for the interment of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. Davis was re-interred on the site in 1893. In 1899 the Hungarian-born and -trained sculptor Zolnay erected three monuments to the Davis family on the site: the bronze figure of Davis himself, a broken column for his wife, Varina, and a grieving angel for daughter Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis. In 1909 another Davis daughter, Margaret Davis Hayes, died and received a monument, also by Zolnay, a draped figure standing within the oversized pages of a Bible. The Ellipse (1893, plan) is on a plateau with spectacular views of the James River. The Hollywood Company planned this section and permitted only one headstone per plot. The resulting severity contrasts sharply with the plots crowded with monuments in the older sections of the cemetery. To the north of the Ellipse are a number of outstanding mausoleums set into the hillside. The Lewis Ginter Mausoleum (1897), the resting place of Richmond's greatest architectural patron of the nineteenth century, is a splendid Beaux-Arts tempietto in the Corinthian order. Tiffany Studios provided the bronze doors and the stained glass.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Hollywood Cemetery", [Richmond, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 241-243.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.