June 02, 2004 News & Features » Cover Story


Monumental Moments 

Monument Avenue’s existing statues tell us where we’ve been. They may help tell us where we’re going.

Robert Edward Lee

Cross street: Allen
Faces: South
Date dedicated: May 29, 1890
Artists: Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercie of Paris
Architect for the base: Paul Pujol
Cost: $18,000 for the statue; $41,500 for the base.
Legend: One of the four marble columns broke when being installed. The replacement was slightly off-color, although you’d be hard-pressed to determine which one now. Stonemason James Netherwood, the story goes, saved the broken column. When he died, it became the support for a statue over the transplanted Englishman’s grave in Oakwood Cemetery in the city’s East End.

Jefferson Davis

Cross street: Davis
Faces: East
Date dedicated: June 3, 1907
Artist: Edward V. Valentine sculpted the statue of Davis and the heroic figure atop the 60-foot column.
Architect: William C. Noland, who also designed an expansion of Jefferson’s Virginia Capitol.
Cost: About $40,000
Factoid: The Davis monument stands on the site of fort that was part of the city’s western defenses during the Civil War. The woman on the column is named Vindicatrix, a reference to what supporters saw as vindication of the Confederate cause. Also in the vein of vindication, the column that supports Davis’ hand has “Jamestown 1607” and “1776” written on it, referencing the lineage and righteousness of the Lost Cause. The monument was dedicated during the celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement.

Stonewall Jackson

Cross street: Boulevard
Faces: North
Date dedicated: Oct. 11, 1919
Artist: Frederick William Sievers
Cost: $40,000
Factoid: Sievers used Jackson’s death mask, then at the Valentine Museum, as one the aids for sculpting the face. The statue rests on a 22-foot-high granite base. The artist wished for the statue to face south to address oncoming traffic, but Confederate veterans demanded that Jackson not turn away from the North.

Matthew Fontaine Maury

Cross street: Belmont
Faces: East
Date dedicated: Nov. 11, 1929
Artist: Frederick Sievers
Cost: About $50,000
Factoid: The monument arguably depicts the most influential man on the world stage among the six statues. Maury, an antebellum naval officer, headed the U.S. Naval Observatory after he suffered a leg injury that precluded further service at sea. He mapped ocean currents and shipping lanes. His work not only aided navigation, it also helped in predicting weather patterns on land. During the Civil War, he worked on technical projects, such as mines, for the Confederate navy. The figures around the globe represent people suffering in storms at sea and on a farm, people Maury presumably relieved. Around the top of the granite support, birds flap in the wind, and along the base fish — among them a catfish — swim. A copy of the seated Maury statue sits in the library at the Virginia Military Institute, where Maury taught after the Civil War. Cadets are often photographed — late at night — sitting in the old professor’s lap.

Arthur Ashe

Cross street: Roseneath Road
Faces: West
Date dedicated: July 10, 1996
Artist: Paul DiPasquale
Architect: Doug Harnsberger
Cost: $500,000
Factoid: The monument that reopened the venerable avenue to statuary — and controversy. City officials designed the intersection for a yet-to-be-named statue in 1925. DiPasquale’s design underwent numerous changes as he tried to please each and every critic of the selection. Consequently, the depiction of Ashe — holding up a tennis racket and a book — pleased very few people. Ashe is the only native Richmonder depicted on Monument Avenue.

Source: “Richmond’s Monument Avenue,” by Sarah Shields Driggs, Richard Guy Wilson and Robert P. Winthrop.

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