Riverview Cemetery (or River View) was initiated by the city of Richmond in 1887 with the purchase of fifty-three acres immediately west of Hollywood Cemetery on the James River. A decade earlier, members of city council had observed “the necessity for a cemetery in the western part of the city, where people of moderate means may buy sections and bury their dead.” In this way, the new cemetery marked the city’s response to Hollywood’s success, as well as that of the city’s municipal cemeteries on the north side and east end, Shockoe Hill and Oakwood, respectively.
The property that would compose Riverview had been known as the Bankstown farm. Its other neighbor, the Roman Catholic cemetery of Mount Calvary, was developed at the same time. Riverview was laid out in a curvilinear design, with six roundabouts amid winding avenues, all overlooking the picturesque falls of the river. Later expansions of the property would come in 1923 and 1928, as the cemetery eventually encompassed nearly ninety acres.
The cemetery received its first burial in 1890. Soon after the cemetery’s founding, various civic and religious groups created clusters of sites within the cemetery, including American legionnaires, the Greek orthodox community, Armenian immigrants, and the Elks fraternal order.
Early superintendents of the cemetery included F. A. French, Charles E. Richardson, and A. W. Browning.
In 1901, Richmond’s city council donated a section in the cemetery for use by the Home for Needy Confederate Women shortly after that group’s founding. The following decade the city donated a section for use by the Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers’ Home. There is also a memorial section dedicated to veterans of the Spanish-American War.
The site remained closed to African American burials, however, until 1968.
In the new millennium, Muslims in the region established an Islamic garden section for the community’s burials.
The cemetery remains under city management, and the administrative office for all the city’s cemeteries stands near the entrance.
Podcast for William S. Watkins, Sr. (funeral director), 1888-1969, by Kayleigh Beadles and Madelyn Knopf:
Podcast for Sheikh Ismail Abdul-Karim (imam and journalist), 1954-2006, by Thomas Marlowe and Mark Zvijac:
For more information, see:
Islamic Garden at Riverview Cemetery, by the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond
T. Tyler Potterfield, Nonesuch Place: A History of the Richmond Landscape (Charleston: History Press, 2009)