Category Archives: Hollywood

Flashy Matriarchs

Walking a few plots past the President’s Circle, a specific group of gravestones caught the eye of many of the students. One families plot held a couple of stones that were not only extremely large, but also extremely unique in their shape. This plot and the two stones with unique shape attracted my attention to the plot. Surrounded and marked by a cast iron fence and closed to visitors besides am small rusted gate One of the stones in the plot, the oldest looking (not pictured) was tall, thin, and worn. In contrast to the other 4 around it, the traditional and eroded stone seemed to be from long before the others, indicating an ancestor of significant age and distance from the others. Most notable about this stone was the last name “Caskie” and birth date in 1821 for the man, John Samuels.

Fewer questions came to mind when looking at the next two stones. Despite a great height and thickness, these were more traditionally shaped, with a curved top, image of a cross engraved in the top, and a solid base, one of which had the name “London.” The material was a more solid granite (or something like it) with exact, crisp lettering for the names. The stone that included the name “London” had the husband with the name “Daniel London” and his wife Mary with the last name “Caskie.” Mary Caskie was born 8 years after Samuel Caskie on the older stone. The stone next to them held a single name, also a London. He was born 46 years after the other London had been born, but only 35 years after his wife, the younger Caskie had been born.

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At this point, the family tree seemed pretty straight forward. Mary had been the sister to John Samuels. She had married Daniel London and then given birth to Guy Reeves London. Mary had been the key person to tie all of the people together in this plot, with both her brother, husband, and son present.

The larger, more interesting stones added to the family tree. While identical in shape, the stone facing the river was larger. It had a pyramid shaped base with a large circle on top. With a cross on the very top, there were three identical circles that met together in their centers carved out of the circle on the top. The rectangular base held the name “Ficklen.” It marked the graves of Ellen Caskie London (1866-1934) and her husband Joseph Burwell Ficklen (1848-1907). The smaller stone was identical in shape and wording, facing into the plot and directly opposite the other stone. It held the name Joseph Burwell Ficklen III (1892-1978) and his wife Irene Poole.

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It seemed that Ellen Caskie London must have been the daughter of Mary Caskie and Daniel London, and the sister to Guy Reeves London. Her husband’s grandson was Joseph Burwell Ficklen III, and he had likely been buried in the plot years after the first four stones.

As I searched the names and dates, it felt obvious that all of the family wanted to memorialize each other in a big way, and that the stone for the elder Ficklens was obviously meant to be seen. The iconography and shape of the stone was unique and bold, but, most importantly, it caught the eye of passersby, as was evidenced by the number of students that stopped to take a picture. The person that added onto or designed this plot wanted it to be noticed and seen.

The most interesting thing was the matriarchal influence in the plot. In this time period, since men were the dominant figures in a family, I would expect the family to be buried according to the men in the family (and thereby maintain a last name for the plot). However, this plot is most strongly influenced by the women, specifically the Caskie women. Mary Caskie and Ellen Caskie London are the two figures mention that create the most connections within the plot. It is Mary Caskie’s brother and son and daughter that are marked by four of the five stones, and then Ellen Caskie London’s brother, mother, uncle, and grandson throughout the plot. In this family, the women connected the family that was buried. This explains why there are three different last names present.

Ultimately, I think this plot indicates that, while the male side of the family was undoubtedly important, when it came to being buried and having gravestones (maybe considered artistic and therefore feminine) and deciding who was put into the plot with this family, the women were more influential. Since Mary and Ellen both outlived their husbands, they might have had more of a say on where they wanted him buried, and they may have picked the plot with their own families. Or, as other family members buried them all, they may have recognized the Caskie bloodline to have a stronger influence within the family, and therefore be more important for the burial placement.

Field Report 4

Located just a few blocks from the VCU campus I saw what appeared to be a Gothic castle. However upon entering, I was transmitted into a natural landscape filled with graves. Hollywood Cemetery was built in the late 1840s, with the intention of creating an experience for its guests. Through the design of the landscape anyone who visited the graveyard was left with a clear impression of fragility of one’s existence and life’s natural order.
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Hollywood Cemetery was unlike most graveyards. Here the headstones and monuments were not the main attraction. It was the layout of the cemetery itself that drew attention. Every area of the cemetery was different from the last, thanks to the vast rolling landscape. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century the idea of mankind’s mastery over nature was very prominent. During this same time as well  Transcendentalist Movement arose, which emphasized the natural world and one’s connection to it. These ideas were married to one another in the design of Hollywood Cemetery. The best way to accomplish this feat was by borrowing from the Europeans, as Americans so often did. Hollywood was akin to the style of an English Garden. In English gardens nature was tamed, but did not lose its natural form. For example, a tree foreign to the area would be planted or a false stream would be constructed. However despite these additions, the man-made scenery would have blended seamlessly into the natural landscape.IMG_0247IMG_0234

Even with the many graves, the cemetery was able to create a sense of naturalism. Though some markers were more elaborate than others, they appeared to be at home. The use of stone for the markers and monuments paid  homage to the natural world and simultaneously demonstrated humanity’s control over it. No attraction displayed this more than the giant stone pyramid of Hollywood Cemetery. Pale grey stones, of various sizes were used to erect this pyramid. It was mentioned on the tour that the monumental pyramid, constructed for fallen Confederate soldiers, was in times past covered with ivy. In my opinion, the addition of ivy would have further illustrated the coexistence of mankind and nature. It was a shame that they later decided to overly groom this piece.
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The most scenic site within the cemetery was located near President’s Circle, overlooking the James River. It was an absolutely remarkable view. To the right resided the carefully manicured graveyard and to the left a rushing river surrounded by wild vegetation. The graveyard was utterly quiet and still, as if it was encapsulated in time. Dissimilarly across from Hollywood, the James River noisily roared and circling birds cried out. Here life and death were neighbors. The scene was practically poetic. In the early 19th Century this picturesque view would be perhaps even grander. Unfortunately, presently Richmond’s high-rise buildings detracted from scene and were a stark reminder of how much time has passed.

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Hollywood Cemetery was a daunting maze of grave markers and winding roads. Throughout the graveyard pathways were marked, by way of street signs and other such indicators. In addition to this, a bright blue line painted along the asphalt pathways led visitors to the cemetery’s more popular sites. At times Hollywood Cemetery felt more like a theme park, than a resting place for the dead. The current format of the graveyard, although necessary for tourists, seemed out of place. The original intention of Hollywood Cemetery’s design was to illustrate man’s control over nature, however the modern world marred this mystique. Needing signs and painted trail paths within graveyard was a bit comical to behold. The sheer complexity of the cemetery seemed at odds with the other sites we have seen thus far. The previous cemeteries we visited appeared more intimate, despite their numerous headstones. Perhaps it was because burial grounds, such St. Johns Church and Hebrew Cemetery were built on a smaller scale. Nevertheless, when one got past the obvious tourists gimmicks of Hollywood it was a beautiful place to behold.

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Field Report 4

Located just a few blocks from the VCU campus I saw what appeared to be a Gothic castle. However upon entering, I was transmitted into a natural landscape filled with graves. Hollywood Cemetery was built in the late 1840s, with the intention of creating an experience for its guests. Through the design of the landscape anyone who visited the graveyard was left with a clear impression of fragility of one’s existence and life’s natural order.
IMG_0194

Hollywood Cemetery was unlike most graveyards. Here the headstones and monuments were not the main attraction. It was the layout of the cemetery itself that drew attention. Every area of the cemetery was different from the last, thanks to the vast rolling landscape. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century the idea of mankind’s mastery over nature was very prominent. During this same time as well  Transcendentalist Movement arose, which emphasized the natural world and one’s connection to it. These ideas were married to one another in the design of Hollywood Cemetery. The best way to accomplish this feat was by borrowing from the Europeans, as Americans so often did. Hollywood was akin to the style of an English Garden. In English gardens nature was tamed, but did not lose its natural form. For example, a tree foreign to the area would be planted or a false stream would be constructed. However despite these additions, the man-made scenery would have blended seamlessly into the natural landscape.IMG_0247IMG_0234

Even with the many graves, the cemetery was able to create a sense of naturalism. Though some markers were more elaborate than others, they appeared to be at home. The use of stone for the markers and monuments paid  homage to the natural world and simultaneously demonstrated humanity’s control over it. No attraction displayed this more than the giant stone pyramid of Hollywood Cemetery. Pale grey stones, of various sizes were used to erect this pyramid. It was mentioned on the tour that the monumental pyramid, constructed for fallen Confederate soldiers, was in times past covered with ivy. In my opinion, the addition of ivy would have further illustrated the coexistence of mankind and nature. It was a shame that they later decided to overly groom this piece.
IMG_0198

The most scenic site within the cemetery was located near President’s Circle, overlooking the James River. It was an absolutely remarkable view. To the right resided the carefully manicured graveyard and to the left a rushing river surrounded by wild vegetation. The graveyard was utterly quiet and still, as if it was encapsulated in time. Dissimilarly across from Hollywood, the James River noisily roared and circling birds cried out. Here life and death were neighbors. The scene was practically poetic. In the early 19th Century this picturesque view would be perhaps even grander. Unfortunately, presently Richmond’s high-rise buildings detracted from scene and were a stark reminder of how much time has passed.

IMG_0242IMG_0245

Hollywood Cemetery was a daunting maze of grave markers and winding roads. Throughout the graveyard pathways were marked, by way of street signs and other such indicators. In addition to this, a bright blue line painted along the asphalt pathways led visitors to the cemetery’s more popular sites. At times Hollywood Cemetery felt more like a theme park, than a resting place for the dead. The current format of the graveyard, although necessary for tourists, seemed out of place. The original intention of Hollywood Cemetery’s design was to illustrate man’s control over nature, however the modern world marred this mystique. Needing signs and painted trail paths within graveyard was a bit comical to behold. The sheer complexity of the cemetery seemed at odds with the other sites we have seen thus far. The previous cemeteries we visited appeared more intimate, despite their numerous headstones. Perhaps it was because burial grounds, such St. Johns Church and Hebrew Cemetery were built on a smaller scale. Nevertheless, when one got past the obvious tourists gimmicks of Hollywood it was a beautiful place to behold.

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Field Report 3: Hollywood Cemetery

Underneath a tree, on the corner of a family plot is the grave of Kate and Charlies Burr. They died years apart, Kate at 2, and Charles at 3 in 1849 and 1858 respectively. Their grave has several elements to it, starting with the monument to the children resting on top of a chest tomb. It depicts a boy and a girl embracing each other lovingly, having been laid on the top of their sarcophagus, anchored together with a wreath of buds, and surrounded by interspersed leaves and foliage. It depicts the life of these two children cut short and reminds the viewer of both the beginning promise of life and the fragility of that promise. It also implies a connection between the siblings, despite their separate deaths, indicating that the family believed they were together in the afterlife.

Below the sarcophagus are two beds, perhaps for planting flowers, that are surrounded neatly in stone. They stretch behind the grave, morphing with the slope of the hill. The first bed carries an inscriptions reading, “And he took them up in his arms and blessed them Mark 10:16.” Sitting on the ledge is a platter carved with dying flowers and leaves, perhaps representing the feelings of the parents as they placed flowers on the grave of their children. The second ledge extends further out and it unadorned, although it’s not entirely clear whether it is the location of the children’s burial, or if it serves a purpose for the family. The grave itself doesn’t have a clear-cut front or back, only the children have any direction at all: head to the east, feet to the west, orienting them, rather than the face of the grave, in the traditional direction. Oddly, the text on both sides is oriented north and south, aligning with the path beside it.

The grave itself has a flow from earth to heaven. It starts displaying the ground, collecting the dead leaves from the tree it’s planted under, square, dark, and earthy. At the top sits the children, inclined upwards, looking eternally healthy and peaceful, carved in a lighter stone.

The grave displays both the feelings of loss of the parents, and the religious promise of life, using not only the carvings to depict it, but the land itself.