Laid out along the James River in 1848 by John Notman, designer of Richmond’s Capitol Square and Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery, Hollywood Cemetery was inspired by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA. Known as Harvie’s Woods for the Harvie family that owned the property, local citizens sought to preserve the popular 135-acre site by creating the rural cemetery just outside Richmond. At its inception Hollywood was a part of Sidney, a separate city now incorporated within Richmond. While Notman was able to preserve the steep riverside topography in essence, adjustments were made to accommodate roads and paths to allow for double tiered burial lots and to control the on-site streams.
In 1870 the Hollywood Cemetery Company constructed a folly at the entrance that included an incomplete Gothic ruin tower, a masonry remnant , and a pedestrian gate. Twenty years later a chapel was added to the tower and in 1915 the gate was widened to accommodate automobiles. Though several small lakes included in Notman’s design have been filled, the original 40-acre section of the cemetery retains its historic integrity.
Still an active cemetery, Hollywood is home to more than 75,000 graves, including U.S. Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and thousands of Confederate soldiers. In 1869 Charles Dimmock designed a 90-foot granite pyramid to serve as a Confederate memorial. Hollywood Cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.