As early as 1842 a German Theologian named Otto Thenius proposed the idea that the outcropping of rock known today as "Skull Hill" could possibly be significant in the identification of the site of the crucifixion. That idea lay seemingly dormant for quite some time until General Charles Gordon on sabbatical in the area (1883) began to publish similar ideas. Because of his importance in British society at that time the idea took hold and people began to look seriously at the claims that this could possibly be the site listed in the New Testament as Golgotha (Aramaic) or Calvary (Latin) - the place of the skull. It was the efforts of two ladies in particular, Charlotte Hussey and Louisa Hope, who followed these ideas and began to take them seriously and thought that the place ought to be preserved. In September 22, 1892 a notice was placed in the London Times asking people to donate the funds necessary to purchase the site (then offered for sale by a German family). The Garden Tomb Association was formally established in 1893 and the purchase of the property was bought about in 1894 - though it would actually be a number of years before all the legal formalities were completed.
After people began to take seriously the claims that the area at the base of the rock cliff could possibly be Golgotha, it led to a renewed interest in other findings of earlier times. In 1867 an ancient Jewish tomb had been discovered and subsequently detailed and published by Conrad Schick. In light of all that was happening, people began to believe that the site may have significance and they re-examined what had been detailed previously. The Bible describes that Jesus was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem near a gate of the city along a major thoroughfare, that at the place where He was crucified there was a garden and in the garden a tomb. The tomb is described as being a tomb cut out of rock, belonging to a wealthy man by the name of Joseph of Arimathea. It had a weeping chamber, a burial chamber, it was sealed with a rolling stone, it had a traditionally low doorway through which the disciples were forced to stoop in order to look into (and enter) the tomb that morning. The words of the Gospel writers began to step out of the New Testament in living color.
All the pieces began to fit together and this tomb located on the north side of Jerusalem, just outside the Damascus Gate looked remarkably like that described in the Gospels. Having now both a tomb and a possible site of crucifixion, people were eager to further explore the area. Further excavations led to concrete ideas that the area had indeed been a garden as well in Jesus' day. As early as 1885 we already have a map showing a large cistern, a cistern used to irrigate a large garden undoubtedly belonging to a wealthy man. In 1924 a wine press believed to come from the era of the late Second Temple Period was discovered as well leading to a belief that this site, in Jesus' day, was indeed some rich man's vineyard.
Many began to think that this could possibly be the authentic site. The idea caught on and many people began to come and visit. To this day it continues to be a site that, whether it be the actual site or not - we do not know, at least beautifully pictures what is described and detailed in the Gospel accounts. It has become a garden where people come to reflect, not only on the death of our Saviour, but on His resurrection and the hope of eternal life, the life that comes from knowing the resurrected Christ.