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James Monroe

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Richmond, VA July 13, 2005 28th President visited

Photographed July 13, 2005.

There are three locations that possess the remains of multiple U.S. presidents — the United First Parish Church in Quincy, Massachusetts, claims John and John Quincy Adams; Arlington National Cemetery hosts the gravesites of William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy; and James Monroe and John Tyler rest in the Presidents Circle section of Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery. Tyler’s monument  stands in the foreground of this image. Monroe’s Gothic tomb is shown behind it.

Former President Monroe’s wrought iron gravesite, nicknamed “the Birdcage,” was designed by Albert Lybrock. It is based off of the tomb of scholars Héloïse and Abelard at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France. When I visited Hollywood Cemetery in July 2005 and June 2015, the fifth commander-in-chief’s memorial was painted black. Soon after that second excursion, the metal was refurbished and restored to its original ivory hue. 

Photographed July 13, 2005.
Photographed July 13, 2005.

The sarcophagus I am touching here does not actually hold Monroe’s remains. He is interred beneath the monument rather than inside it. Former First Lady Elizabeth Monroe has a far less pronounced gravesite a few feet away, which is marked by a plaque flush with the ground.

As is acknowledged on the plaque affixed to the erstwhile leader’s grave, Hollywood Cemetery was not his initial site of interment. Monroe was living at the Manhattan residence of his daughter and her husband at the time of his death on July 4, 1831. His body was soon laid to rest at New York Marble Cemetery in a vault owned by his son-in-law. It was relocated to his native Virginia soil in 1858.

Photographed July 13, 2005.

 


Fast Facts

Born: April 28, 1758 in Westmoreland County, Virginia

Spouse: Elizabeth Kortright Monroe (m. 1786-1830)

Highest Military Rank: Colonel — Virginia Militia

Political Affiliation: Democratic-Republican Party

Served in Cabinet of: James Madison

Cabinet Position: Secretary of State (1811-1817); Secretary of War (1814-1815)

Presidential Term: 1817-1825

Vice President: Daniel D. Tompkins

Died: July 4, 1831 in New York, New York

Cause of Death: Heart Failure; Tuberculosis

Age: 73

Interment: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

"Never did a government commence under auspices so favorable, nor ever was success so complete. If we look to the history of other nations, ancient or modern, we find no example of a growth so rapid, so gigantic, of a people so prosperous and happy. In contemplating what we have still to perform, the heart of every citizen must expand with joy when he reflects how near our Government has approached to perfection; that in respect to it we have no essential improvement to make; that the great object is to preserve it in the essential principles and features which characterize it, and that is to be done by preserving the virtue and enlightening the minds of the people; and as a security against foreign dangers to adopt such arrangements as are indispensable to the support of our independence, our rights and liberties. If we persevere in the career in which we have advanced so far and in the path already traced, we can not fail, under the favor of a gracious Providence, to attain the high destiny which seems to await us."
- James Monroe

March 4, 1817, on the development of the United States, in his first inaugural address

Sources Consulted

Monroe, James. Inaugural Address, March 4, 1817. Transcript. From Yale Law School, Avalon Projecthttps://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/monroe1.asp.

Picone, Louis L. The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond. Rev. ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020.

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