The Richmond History Podcast

Friday, April 20, 2012

Taft at Hollywood Cemetery



27th President William Howard Taft

On Sept 14, 1909, new President William Howard Taft left Boston for a tour of the country.1  He had just been inaugurated March 4 of that year.2  He arrived in Richmond, VA Nov 10, 1909 after travelling 13,000 miles, 3 talking to people in 26 state and two territories1 (there were only 46 states at the time4).  He arrived at the Byrd St Station, on the corner of todays 7th and Canal St,5 was escorted to the Governor's Mansion to meet with Governor Claude A. Swanson, took a tour of Jefferson's Capital where he had a press conference, took part in a parade up Franklin St to Monument Ave, and later that day he gave a speech at the City Auditorium, today VCU's Cary St Gym.  

City Auditorium, 900 W Cary St, thanks VCU Libraries


He apparently wanted more then a "cursory view" of RVA, the former confederate Capital.3  He wanted to see The White House of the Confederacy, St. Paul's Episcopal, St. John's Episcopal, and Hollywood Cemetery.3  He had seen the first two before the parade, and when his car left the parade it went on to Hollywood.3  Unfortunately for the more then 5' 11.5",7 more then 300lb* Taft, cars were not permitted in Hollywood in 1909.  Gatekeeper William O. Saunders refused to let him in with the car.3  Saunders must have been a very confident man, because he was not only refusing the President of the United States of America, but also Richmond's Mayor David C. Richardson and Virginia's Governor Claude A. Swanson.3  Mayor Richardson called the newly elected President of Hollywood Benjamin C. Wherry who also refused at first.3  Taft apparently really wanted to see the graves of his presidential predecessors, President James Monroe and President John Tyler.  It must be remembered that even today Hollywood is tied with Arlington for the most US Presidents, two.  Hollywood has some catching up to do.  John Tyler, Hollywood's second Prez was buried in 1863. Kennedy was buried in Arlington Nov 25, 1963 tying the record.  The first President in Arlington ... wait for it... Taft who was interred March 11, 1930.8  If you haven't seen Hollywood let me tell you first that you should, and second that there is no way that the rotund Taft was going to be able to walk the steep rolling hills to President's Circle.  Taft ended up spending more then a half an hour getting out not only at President's Circle where he could see Tyler and Monroe, but also at Davis Circle to see Jefferson Davis.3
Cars are allowed today.

*I didn't sight Taft's weight because there are many sources with many different weights.  300lbs + seems to be pretty standard.

3. Hollywood Cemetery: The History of a Southern Shrine, Mary H. Mitchell


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