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Shockoe Hill Cemetery

Shockoe Hill Cemetery

Headstones in Shockoe Hill Cemetery
City of Richmond
Department of Community Development


The City of Richmond established Shockoe Hill Cemetery in 1822 reflecting a developing nationwide trend at the time to have cities provide safe, sanitary places for burials in suburban settings.  Shockoe Hill superseded the first public burial ground in Richmond at St. John’s churchyard, which was largely full by 1820, and provided a public burial ground removed from the developed portion of the city.  The cemetery is historically significant for the layout of its grounds, the remaining 19th-century botanical specimens, the great variety of stone and metal art works, and as the final resting place for distinguished individuals.

The oldest portion of Shockoe Cemetery is the four-acre northwest section.  The purchase of additional land in 1833, 1850, and 1870 expanded the cemetery to the present 12.7 acres.  Richard Young, the Richmond City Surveyor, laid the cemetery out on a regular grid with sections for burial.  Families could purchase full, half, and quarter sections for family burials.  The city reserved the eastern side for single burials.  Roadways named A, B, C, and D divided the cemetery into nine islands.  A brick wall from the early 19th century encloses the cemetery.

The city landscaped the cemetery in the 19th century with trees and ornamental shrubs planting it extensively with Virginia elms, willows, and other suitable trees.  In addition, families planted their sections with roses and other ornamental shrubs.  Despite a decline in the number of trees over the years, surviving trees include Virginia elm, pin oaks, Kentucky coffee, lilac, silver maple, eastern red cedar, locust, and yew.  

Shockoe Cemetery is the final resting place for many prominent early Richmonders and others. Revolutionary war hero Peter Francisco is interred in the cemetery, as is United States Supreme Court Justice John Marshall and early Virginia Governor William H. Cabell.  Richmond’s first mayor, William Foushee; prominent Richmond attorney and property owner, John Wickham; and Edgar Allan Poe’s foster parents, John and Frances V. Allan also rest there. Graves of Civil War soldiers who fought for both the North and the South lie in the cemetery. The United Daughters of the Confederacy placed a granite marker there in 1938 to commemorate them. Directional signage guides visitors to the most noteworthy residents of the cemetery.

A diverse array of 19th-century funerary art in stone and metal by master artists commemorates those interred there and illustrates the new more positive attitudes toward death and eternal life and the influence of nature in the 19th century.  Flowers, evergreens, and trees embellish artworks.  Fraternal insignias on the monuments reflect the importance of fraternal organizations like the Odd Fellows.  Some of the earliest monuments are tabletop graves.  Granite and marble obelisks are scattered throughout the cemetery as are a number of ornate marble monuments executed in a variety of Classical and Gothic motifs.  Many of the monuments are marked as the work of Richmond stonecutters. 

The cemetery has wrought iron entrance gates and cast iron section enclosures. Many of the enclosures are from Richmond foundries and consist of fencing used to enclose a family-owned section.  All of the once-common wood and most of the iron enclosures are now gone. Granite coping around sections became common in the closing decades of the 19th century.

Shockoe Cemetery long ago ceased to have active burials. For much of the last 100 years it suffered from a lack of attention.  National Register designation and the 250th anniversary of the birth of John Marshall, arguably the most famous occupant of the burial ground, fostered interest in preservation.  The Friends of Shockoe Cemetery are working diligently to preserve the historic elements of the cemetery and were instrumental in erecting a Virginia historic highway marker.  The City of Richmond owns and maintains the cemetery as a place of historic burial.

Plan your visit

Shockoe Hill Cemetery is located at the junction of Hospital and 2nd Sts. on the north side of Richmond just across Interstate 95 from downtown.  It is across the street from Hebrew Cemetery and near the Barton Heights Cemeteries. For additional information, visit the City of Richmond cemeteries website.

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