The Renovation of The Presidents Circle at Hollywood Cemetery is unique among most commercial construction projects. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the renovation of this 165-year-old site demanded a high level of detail and quality with regard to scheduling and construction. The Presidents Circle is the original, most historic, and most visited section of Hollywood Cemetery. It is a complex landscape and hardscape project with intricate details and no margin for error.
The project consists of 607 tons of granite which was used for edging, low and tall curbing, and totaling over 100,000 individual cobblestones. One obstacle that was overcome was the resetting of the original granite wall sections with new granite wall sections pieced in where the original was missing. Along the cobblestone walkways are new individual cremation niches, each able to hold two cremains. Each niche is covered by rectangular granite slabs large enough to engrave identification information.
Hollywood Cemetery, established in 1847, was one of the nation’s first cemeteries designed in the “rural style,” with meandering roads that follow the contours of 135 acres overlooking the James River just west of downtown.
The center of attention is Presidents Circle, where Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler are buried. Only two other burial sites — Arlington National Cemetery and United First Parish Church — are the final resting places of two U.S. presidents. Other notables elsewhere in the cemetery include Confederate President Jefferson Davis, six Virginia governors, 22 Confederate generals, two Supreme Court justices, Confederate soldiers, business leaders and literary figures.
Monroe, who died in 1831, was moved to Hollywood in 1859. The sarcophagus of the nation’s fifth president is topped by a 12-foot-tall cast iron “birdcage.” Tyler, who died in 1862, is buried beneath a monolithic granite shaft erected by the federal government in 1915. At the top, a bronze Greek urn is supported by two eagles. A bronze bust of the 10th president stands on a pedestal at one side.