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A City of Cemeteries
By Julie DiNisio
Richmond, Virginia, former capital of the Confederacy, is (not surprisingly) home to many cemeteries. These are the final resting places for all types of people, from Presidents of the United States to slaves who met their ends at Shockoe Bottom, a prime Southern slave trading location. White and black, slave and elite, were not buried together, though, and people segregated in life remained segregated in death.
Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery chooses not to perpetuate this social standard, though. Established in 1822, Shockoe Hill Cemetery was the first cemetery owned by the City of Richmond. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places because many famous Americans and Virginians – notably John Marshall, William Foushee, and Frances K. Allan (Edgar Allan Poe’s beloved foster mother) – were buried here, in addition to Confederate soldiers. Despite the fact that it was a cemetery for elite Richmond residents, much of the city community has embraced the history surrounding the cemetery.
Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery, an organization that acts as a steward to the cemetery, encourages public involvement in the graveyard’s upkeep. According to their website, Richmond-based volunteer groups and individuals have all contributed in the maintenance of gravestones and the grounds. Although most people might consider a graveyard a spooky place to spend any quality time, the website encourages people to use it as they might a park. The website reads, “…there is the realization of all the other things this Cemetery represents: the largest green space north of the city, a working classroom, an arboretum, an art gallery and a sacred site for meditation.”
Though the online calendar does not currently show any pending events, The Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery have partnered with Haunts of Richmond and the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in the past to produce chilling nighttime graveyard tours. Keep an eye on their website or Facebook page for upcoming events or just spend an afternoon there, in communion with the past and appreciation of its history.