Monument Avenue

Monument Avenue is an avenue in Richmond, Virginia with a tree-lined grassy mall dividing the east- and westbound traffic, punctuated by statues memorializing Virginian Confederate veterans of the American Civil War, including Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Jefferson Davis, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and Matthew Fontaine Maury. There is also a monument to Arthur Ashe, a Richmond native and international tennis star who was African-American. The first monument, a statue of Robert E. Lee, was erected in 1890. Between 1900 and 1925, Monument Avenue greatly expanded with architecturally significant houses, churches and apartment buildings.[4]

Monument Avenue Historic District
Jefferson Davis monument on Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia
LocationBounded by Grace and Birch Sts., Park Ave., and Roseneath Rd.; Roughly, Franklin St. from Roseneath Rd. to Cleveland St., Richmond, Virginia
Coordinates37°33′30″N 77°28′04″W
ArchitectPope, John Russell; Et al.
Architectural styleGeorgian, Other, Gothic Revival
NRHP reference #70000883 [1]
VLR #127-0174
Significant dates
Added to NRHPFebruary 16, 1970
Designated NHLDDecember 9, 1997[2]
Designated VLRDecember 2, 1969, December 12, 1989[3]

Monument Avenue is the site of several annual events, particularly in the spring, including an annual Monument Avenue 10K race.[5] At various times (such as Robert E. Lee's birthday and Confederate History Month) the Sons of Confederate Veterans gather along Monument Avenue in period military costumes. Monument Avenue is also the site of "Easter on Parade," [6] another spring tradition during which many Richmonders stroll the avenue wearing Easter bonnets and other finery.

"Monument Avenue Historic District" includes the part of Monument Avenue beginning at the termination of West Franklin Street at Stuart Circle in the east, extending westward for some fourteen blocks to Roseneath Avenue, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark District.[7] In 2007, the American Planning Association named Monument Avenue one of the 10 Great Streets in the country.[8] The APA said Monument Avenue was selected for its historic architecture, urban form, quality residential and religious architecture, diversity of land uses, public art and integration of multiple modes of transportation.[9]


Monument Avenue was conceived during a site search for a memorial statue of General Robert E. Lee after Lee's death in 1870. Richmond citizens had been wanting to erect statues for three Virginians who had helped defend the city (two of whom were killed in the defense). City plans as early as 1887 show the proposed site, a circle of land, just past the end of West Franklin Street, a premier downtown residential avenue. The land was owned by a wealthy Richmonder, Otway C. Allen. The plan for the statue included building a grand avenue extending west lined with trees along a central grassy median. The plan shows building plots which Allen intended to sell to developers and those wishing to build houses on the new grand avenue.

On May 29, 1890, crowds were estimated at 100,000 to view the unveiling of the first monument, to Robert E. Lee.[10]

It would take about 10 years for wealthy Richmonders and speculative developers to start buying the lots and building houses along the avenue, but in the years between 1900 and 1925 Monument Avenue exploded with architecturally significant houses, churches and apartment buildings. The architects who built on Monument Avenue practiced in the region and nationally, and included the firms of John Russell Pope, William Bottomley, Duncan Lee, Marcellus Wright, Claude Howell, Henry Baskervill, D. Wiley Anderson and Albert Huntt. Speculative builders such as W. J. Payne, Harvey C. Brown and the Davis Brothers bought lots and built many houses to sell to those not designing with an architect.

The street was originally, and continues to be, a favored living area for Richmond's upper class. It (especially the Fan District section) is lined with large mansions from the end of the Gilded Age. The Museum District part of Monument Avenue includes a combination of such houses (especially in the 3100 block), apartment buildings and smaller single-family houses. West of Interstate 195, Monument Avenue becomes a more commonplace suburban avenue.

Through the decades the avenue has had its ups and downs. As early as 1910, but mostly during the 1950s and '60s, many of the large houses were subdivided into apartments, or interior rooms and carriage houses were let to boarders. A few houses were demolished to make way for parking lots or building expansions, and several modern additions were tucked between earlier existing buildings. But protections put in place by the city by designating Monument Avenue as an Old and Historic Neighborhood have helped maintain the integrity of the neighborhood. In 1969 a group was incorporated called The Residents and Associates for the Preservation of Monument Avenue, led by Zayde Rennolds Dotts (Mrs. Walter Dotts, Jr.),[11] granddaughter of Beulah and John Kerr Branch, who had commissioned a house on Monument Avenue in 1914 by the firm of John Russell Pope. In 1970 the group changed its name to the Monument Avenue Preservation Society (MAPS).

From 1981 to 1988, just over 1 mile (1.6 km) of Monument Avenue between Malvern Avenue (VA 197) and Arthur Ashe Boulevard (VA 161) was officially designated State Route 418 but this was not posted on the route itself.[12][13]

In August 2017, following violence linked to far right white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, VA, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced that the city's Monument Avenue commission would include potential removal of the confederate monuments, which is illegal under Virginia law[14], as an option for dealing with the issues raised by statues honoring veterans who died fighting for the Confederacy.[15]


External video
Monument Avenue (5:34), CSPAN[16]

J.E.B. Stuart

Starting from the east the first from downtown is traffic circle known as Stuart Circle after the termination of West Franklin Street and the beginning of Monument Avenue and cross street of Lombardy. In Stuart Circle is the J.E.B. Stuart Monument, an equestrian bronze statue sitting atop a granite base. The statue which was sculpted by Fred Moynihan of New York was the second monument unveiled on Monument Ave in 1907 and was inspired of the British General Outram sculpture in Calcutta. Stuart is turned in the saddle facing east while the horse faces north. The horses stance has been viewed as being awkward by many Virginians.[17]

Plans for the sculpture was first discussed publicly as early as 1875, however the competition was not done held until 1903. Fitzhugh Lee again chaired the selection committee, as he had for the Lee Monument. The site location was chosen in 1904 as Stuart was one of the two who died helping to defend the city that citizens had been wanting to memorialize in a house nearby. At the same time plans for the third Davis Monument was being planned further west at Monument Ave and Cedar Street. The dual unveiling drew large crowds even larger than the Lee unveiling. Crowds were estimated between 80,000 and 200,000 which included 18,000 veteran attendees who camped out for the week.[18]

Robert E. Lee Monument

One block west of Stuart Circle is the big traffic circle of Lee Circle. The Robert E. Lee Monument was the first and is the largest of the street's monuments.[19]

Jefferson Davis Memorial

Four blocks to the west of Lee Circle is a tall central column surrounded by a Doric colonnade of the impressive Davis Memorial unveiled in 1907. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) had been appealing to include a Jefferson Davis memorial and in 1904 the first addition to the plan was made. UDC chose the site as it had been the former location of Star Fort, the innermost westward protection for Richmond. The defenses is also marked by a cannon just to the east of Davis Memorial.

Stonewall Jackson Monument

Three blocks west of Davis Memorial is the equestrian statue of Stonewall Jackson located at corner of Monument Ave and Boulevard.

Matthew Fontaine Maury Monument

The "Pathfinder of the Seas" monument of Matthew Fontaine Maury is located on Monument Avenue at Belmont Avenue,[20] closest to the Arthur Ashe monument.

In 1915 the Matthew Fontaine Maury Association was founded with the purpose of erecting a monument to Maury though serious fundraising did not happen until after the end of the First World War. Eventually the United Daughters of the Confederacy joined in the fundraising, the State Virginia and the City of Richmond each donated $1,000, and even President Wilson, a native Virginian, joined the Association.[21]

The committee selected Richmond sculptor Frederick William Sievers, the author of many Lost Cause memorials, to produce the work and he created the "most allegorical of Richmond's monuments." [22] The monument was unveiled as part of an Armistice Day celebration on November 11, 1929. [23]

The figure of Maury faces eastward, toward the Atlantic Ocean that the "Pathfinder of the Seas" charted. He holds in his left hand a pencil and compass and in his right hand a copy of his charts. Beside his left foot is his book, Physical Geography of the Sea, as well as a Bible, indicating the central role that faith played in Maury's life. A globe of the Earth is tilted slightly on its axis behind his head. It represents both land and sea, and the woman standing calmly is a representation of Mother Nature between the land and sea. Around the base of the globe are depictions of people clinging to a sinking boat in bad weather representing the dangers of the sea with a woman in the center, and on the right (north) side of the globe there is a farmer, boy and a dog representing Maury's work promoting land weather service, which dates back further than 1853. Maury attended the International Meteorological Organization in Brussels, Belgium on August 23, 1853, where Maury, leading the way for this conference with his ideas of land and sea weather predictions and representing the United States, promoted his ideas of safety on both land and at sea to many nations which agreed to follow his ideas. Every maritime nation had its ships reporting to Maury at the National (later Naval) Observatory in Washington D.C. These elements represent Maury's work with atmospheric science, to the benefit of all mankind and their enterprises on land and on the sea. Weather warnings and reports had been dreams of Maury during his lifetime up until when he died and he was successful in his work. He thought of the ships at sea as "a thousand temples of science for all of humanity" and believed these brought men and nations closer together in a common self-protection against storms and deaths. There are fish, dolphins, jellyfish and birds around the monument's perimeter.

Arthur Ashe Monument

The decision to place the statue of Arthur Ashe by Paul DiPasquale on Monument Avenue was controversial.[24] Detractors pointed to a lack of correlation between the Richmond native tennis star and Confederate leaders. Some residents thought the monument should be placed at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center instead. The monument became a focal point of racial tensions in the city around the times of its commission and its unveiling. Many of the city's majority African American residents cited Ashe's distinguished place in the modern history of the city as a reason for inclusion, while some residents and other parties rejected it as inappropriate for Monument Avenue, which until 1996 contained only statues of men with a relationship to the Confederate States of America.

The controversy over the statue may have also been driven by design and placement choices. Ashe's statue is much smaller than those of most of the Confederate leaders and is the farthest from downtown Richmond, situated just outside the city's Fan district.


The Confederate memorials on Monument Avenue have been the source of controversy since they were first built.[25] Opponents have pointed to these roots in the "Lost Cause" and Virginia's "Massive Resistance" to racial integration of public schools to argue that the statues symbolize white supremacy and should be removed or revised.[26] Proponents of preservation recognize the monuments as veterans memorials erected to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and citizens who died fighting for the South during the Civil War.[27] The removal movement gained momentum following a similar controversy with Charlottesville, Virginia's Robert E. Lee statue and the subsequent events of the "Unite The Right" rally on August 11–12, 2017.[28]

In late 2017, Mayor Levar Stoney announced the formation of a "Monument Avenue Commission" to solicit the public's input and ultimately provide recommendations on the future of the monuments.[29] Current Virginia law, upheld by the Virginia judicial system, prohibits the removal or altering of the statues on Monument Avenue, which are classified as veteran war memorials.[30] In mid-2018, the Commission issued its recommendations, calling for the removal of the Jefferson Davis monument while attaching permanent signage "reinterpreting" the Lee, Jackson, Stuart and Maury monuments.[31]

See also


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. "Monument Avenue Historic District". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2012-10-06. Retrieved 2008-06-27.
  3. "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  4. "Monument Avenue Preservation Zone" (PDF). National Register of Historic Inventory - Nomination Form. VA DHR. December 2, 1969.
  5. Richmond Approves Monument to Ashe, New York Times, Retrieved on July 28, 2007
  6. Venture Richmond Archived 2007-02-03 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Monument Avenue Preservation Zone" (PDF). National Register of Historic Inventory - Nomination Form. VA DHR. December 2, 1969.
  8. Monument Avenue
  9. Richmond's own 'Great Street' - News - Archived 2007-08-23 at
  10. Boritt & Holzer, The Confederate Image: Prints of the Lost Cause
  11. "Preservationist Zayde R. Dotts dies". Richmond Times Distpatch, Sept 29, 2007. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04.
  12. State Highway and Transportation Commission (Missing—please add the date of 09-1981-01 to Template:CTB minutes, and check if the default location (Richmond) is correct.). Minutes of Meeting (PDF) (Report). Richmond, VA: Commonwealth of Virginia. p. 24. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. Virginia Highways Project: VA 418
  15. Times-Dispatch, MARK ROBINSON Richmond. "Mayor Stoney: Commission to consider removal of Confederate statues on Richmond's Monument Ave". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  16. "Monument Avenue". C-SPAN. November 29, 2010. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  17. Sarah S. Driggs (August 1997). "Monument Avenue Historic District" (PDF). National Historic Landmark Nomination. US Department of the Interior, National Park Services. p. 8.
  18. Sarah S. Driggs (August 1997). p. 46
  19. Robert A. Carter and Jennifer W. Murdock (August 2006). "Robert E. Lee Monument" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination. VA Department of Historic Resources, Sec: 7. p. 1.
  20. DuPriest, James E., Jr. and Douglas O. Tice, Jr., Monument & Boulevard: Richmond;s Grand Avenues, A Richmond Discoveries Publication, Richmond, VA 1996 p. 19
  21. DuPriest, James E., Jr. and Douglas O. Tice, Jr., Monument & Boulevard: Richmond;s Grand Avenues, A Richmond Discoveries Publication, Richmond, VA 1996 p. 20
  22. DuPriest 1996, p. 20.
  23. DuPriest 1996, p. 21.
  24. Richmond Approves Monument to Ashe, New York Times, Retrieved on July 28, 2007
  25. "On Monument Ave: Controversial From The Start". American Civil War Museum. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  26. Epps, Garrett. "The Motionless Ghosts That Haunt the South". The Atlantic. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  27. Removing statues removes a chance to educate, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Retrieved on June 14, 2018
  28. "Rally Planned by Tennessee Group to Protect Lee Monument in Richmond". RVA Mag. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  29. Robinson, Mark. "Stoney's Monument Avenue Commission schedules five meetings". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  30. Charlottesville judge says law protecting war memorials applies to Lee statue, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Retrieved on June 14, 2018
  31. Monument Avenue Commission: Remove Jefferson Davis monument, reinterpret others honoring Confederacy. Mark Robinson. Richmond Times-Dispatch. 2 July 2018.

Further reading

  • Driggs, Sarah Shields; Richard Guy Wilson; Robert P. Winthrop (2001). Richmond's Monument Avenue. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Williams, Frances Leigh (1963). Matthew Fontaine Maury Scientist of the Sea. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
  • DuPriest, James E., Jr.; Douglas O. Tice (1996). Monument & Boulevard: Richmond's Grand Avenues. Richmond Discoveries. ISBN 0-941087-03-4.
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