Michael Joseph Ajemian is songwriter and storyteller who along with Paul Hammond are working to tell the story of Richmond on their website Michael James RVA. They offered to share one of their bits of history and we’re thrilled to take them up on their offer.
Hollywood Cemetery – Three Presidents and a Pyramid
Hollywood Cemetery is a 130 acre cemetery on or next to “Oregon Hill“, overlooking the James River. Crowded with tombstones, memorials, mausoleums and obelisks, it can be easily identified looking west from the Lee bridge (Rte 1) on the north side of the river.
Originally a part of the Belvidere estate of William Byrd III, son of Richmond’s founder William Byrd II. Bushrod Washingtonwho purchased it in 1795 and sold it prior to his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1798, would have been located in today’s Oregon Hill, an old blue collar working class neighborhood, now mostly student housing. The estate was sold to Jacquelin Harvie prior to the 1819 financial panic, who had earlier unsuccessfully sought to create the town of Sydney, now part of today’s Fan District. Thirty years later, the cemetery was laid out on the western edge of Belvidere, called Harvie’s Woods. The cemetery was originally established in 1849 by William H. Haxall and Joshua Fry, who were inspired by the “rural garden style” of the Mount Auburn Cemetery they had visited in Boston and laid out by architect John Notman, who had designed Philadelphia’s “Laurel Hill” cemetery.
Two U.S. Presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler are buried in President’s Circle, pictured above, along with scores of other prominent Virginians and approximately 1,800 Confederate soldiers. Jefferson Davis is buried in another section of the cemetery along with some other Confederate luminaries.After the battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863, the remains of Union soldiers were carefully exhumed from the battlefield and ceremoniously re-interred at the new Gettysburg National Cemetery where Lincoln gave his now famous address calling the nation to finish the work their sacrifice made possible.
“that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.
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