Monument Avenue Historic District
|Location||Bounded by Grace and Birch Sts., Park Ave., and Roseneath Rd.; Roughly, Franklin St. from Roseneath Rd. to Cleveland St., Richmond, Virginia|
|Architect||John Russell Pope|
|Architectural style||Georgian, Gothic Revival|
|NRHP reference No.||70000883|
|Added to NRHP||February 16, 1970|
|Designated NHLD||December 9, 1997|
|Designated VLR||December 2, 1969, December 12, 1989|
Monument Avenue is a tree-lined grassy mall dividing the eastbound and westbound traffic in Richmond, Virginia, originally named for its emblematic complex of structures honoring those who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Between 1900 and 1925, Monument Avenue greatly expanded with architecturally significant houses, churches, and apartment buildings. Four of the bronze statues representing J. E. B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and Matthew Fontaine Maury were removed from their memorial pedestals amidst civil unrest in July 2020. Two others still retain their bronze statues: the Robert E. Lee monument dedicated in 1890 and the Arthur Ashe Monument, memorializing the African American tennis champion, dedicated in 1996.
In the wake of the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd in 2020, the Davis monument was torn down by protestors, while the Lee monument was ordered to be removed by Governor Ralph Northam. In July 2020, Richmond mayor Levar Stoney directed removal of the remaining Confederate monuments on city-owned land including J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Matthew Fontaine Maury, the cannons marking the Richmond Defenses, and other monuments around the Richmond area.
Prior to 2020, Monument Avenue had been the site of several annual events, particularly in the spring, including an annual Monument Avenue 10K race. At various times (such as Robert E. Lee's birthday and Confederate History Month) the Sons of Confederate Veterans would have gathered along Monument Avenue in period military costumes. Monument Avenue had also been the site of "Easter on Parade", another spring tradition during which many Richmonders would have strolled the avenue wearing Easter bonnets and other finery.
"Monument Avenue Historic District" includes the part of Monument Avenue beginning at the traffic circle in the east at the intersection of West Franklin Street and North Lombardy Street, 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.
The American Planning Association selected Monument Avenue as one of the "10 Great Streets in America for 2007" based upon the corridor's historical residential design and craftsmanship, diversity of land uses, the integration of multiple forms of transportation, and the commitment of the community to preserve its legacy.
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 uptown residential avenue at the time. 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, a massive memorial to Robert E. Lee.
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 once a favored living area for Richmond's upper class. The Fan District section, in particular, is lined with large mansions from the end of the Gilded Age. The Museum District part of Monument Avenue includes a combination of large houses (especially in the 3100 block), apartment buildings, and smaller single-family houses. West of Interstate 195, Monument Avenue becomes a more typically suburban avenue, although it continues the wide lanes and expansive grassy median with a variety of trees through to its termination a little over two miles past the current city limits in Henrico County.
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.), 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).
In August 2017, following statue-related violence incited by right wing extremist groups in Charlottesville, VA, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced that the city's Monument Avenue commission would look at providing contextual markers around the Confederate monuments as an option for dealing with the issues raised by statues honoring veterans who died fighting to defend Virginia from Union Forces under the organization of the Confederacy. At that time, removal of such statues was not permitted at the local level under Virginia law.[dubious ] In April 2020, the Democratic Party took over the Virginia legislature and created a law allowing local jurisdictions to remove monuments other than in cemeteries and the Virginia Military Institute that was to take effect in July 2020. On June 10, 2020, protestors tore down the statue of Jefferson Davis from its pedestal. On the first day the new law was in effect, July 1, 2020, Mayor Stoney had a State of Emergency extended to justify the removal of the statue of Stonewall Jackson by a city of Richmond contract, followed with the removal of the Maury statue and the defensive cannon display on July 2. Mayor Stoney then announced plans to remove a total of 11 confederate memorials. Mayor Stoney is under investigation for the awarding of a $1.8 million contract to a political donor for the removal of the monuments.
Monument Avenue previously included several statues dedicated to Confederate military and political figures, including:
|Robert E. Lee Monument||Antonin Mercié||May 29, 1890||pending removal|
|J. E. B. Stuart Monument||Frederick Moynihan||May 30, 1907||July 7, 2020|
|Jefferson Davis Memorial||Edward Valentine||June 3, 1907||June 10, 2020|
|Stonewall Jackson Monument||Frederick William Sievers||October 11, 1919||July 1, 2020|
|Matthew Fontaine Maury Monument||Frederick William Sievers||November 11, 1929||July 2, 2020|
Monument Avenue begins on the east at a traffic circle located at the intersection of West Franklin Street and North Lombardy Street. In that circle was the J. E. B. Stuart Monument, an equestrian bronze statue that sat atop a granite base. The statue, sculpted by Fred Moynihan of New York, was unveiled on Monument Avenue in 1907, the second of the original monuments. It was inspired by the statue of British Lieutenant General Sir James Outram in Kolkata, India. Stuart was turned in the saddle facing east, while the horse faced north. The horse's stance had been viewed as being awkward by many Virginians.
Plans for the Stuart statue were first discussed publicly as early as 1875; however the competition was not held until 1903. Fitzhugh Lee again chaired the selection committee, as he had for the Lee Monument. The site location was chosen in 1904. At the same time, plans for the third monument, to Jefferson Davis, were being set for a location further west at Monument Avenue and Cedar Street. The dual unveiling drew crowds even larger than for the Lee unveiling. Crowds were estimated between 80,000 and 200,000, including 18,000 veteran attendees who camped out for the week.
The statue of Stuart was removed by the City of Richmond on July 7, 2020. At this writing, the empty pedestal remains, including a significant spattering of graffiti.
Four more blocks to the west of was the Jefferson Davis Memorial, a tall central column surrounded by a Doric colonnade. The former statue there was originally unveiled in 1907 along with the J.E.B. Stuart Monument. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) had been appealing to include a Davis memorial, and in 1904 the first addition to the plan was made. This was the former location of Star Fort, the innermost westward protection for Richmond. The defenses were also marked by a cannon just to the east of where the Davis statue once stood.
The bronze statue of Davis was toppled on June 10, 2020, during the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd.
Three blocks west of the former location of the Davis Memorial was the equestrian statue of Stonewall Jackson, located at the intersection of Monument Avenue and North Boulevard.
Mayor Stoney had the monument removed on July 1, 2020. The empty pedestal remains.
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 Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Richmond each donated $1,000, and even President Wilson, a native Virginian, joined the Association.
The committee selected Richmond sculptor Frederick William Sievers to produce the work. The statue was known as the "most allegorical of Richmond's monuments."  The monument was unveiled as part of an Armistice Day celebration on November 11, 1929. 
The figure of Maury had faced eastward, toward the Atlantic Ocean that Maury, the "Pathfinder of the Seas," had charted. He held in his left hand a pencil and compass and in his right hand a copy of his charts. Beside his left foot was 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 was tilted slightly on its axis behind his head. It represented both land and sea, and the woman that stood calmly was a representation of Mother Nature between the land and sea. Around the base of the globe were 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 was a farmer, boy and a dog representing Maury's work promoting land weather service, which dated back further than 1853. Maury attended the International Meteorological Organization conference in Brussels, Belgium on August 23, 1853, leading this conference with his ideas of land and sea weather predictions and representing the United States while promoting 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 were fish, dolphins, jellyfish and birds around the monument's perimeter.
The statue of Maury was removed on July 2, 2020, and the globe followed on July 9.
Nearly a century after the original monuments were put in place, the Richmond community approved a statue of Arthur Ashe by Paul DiPasquale to be placed on Monument Avenue. The statue's placement lacked a correlation between the tennis star and the Confederate leaders already represented on the Avenue. Some residents thought the monument should be placed at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center. The monument became a significant discussion point in the city around the times of its commission and its unveiling. Many of the city's 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 had contained only statues of men with a relationship to the Confederate States of America.
The Confederate memorials on Monument Avenue have been a source of controversy from time to time since they were first built. Opponents have pointed to their 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. Proponents of preservation recognize the monuments as veterans' memorials erected to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of Confederate soldiers and citizens who died fighting to defend Richmond during the Civil War. 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.
In late 2017, Mayor Levar Stoney announced the formation of a "Monument Avenue Commission" that was chartered to solicit the public's input and ultimately provide recommendations on the future of the monuments. In mid-2018, the Commission issued its recommendations, calling for the removal of the Jefferson Davis monument while expressing a desire to attach signage "reinterpreting" the Lee, Jackson, Stuart and Maury monuments.
During the 2020 protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the statues again became a focal point in Richmond. They became a frequent site for both peaceful as well as violent protests. Throughout this period, the statues were covered in graffiti and surrounded with materials such as signs, artwork, candles, and flowers. Richmond-based artists, Dustin Klein and Alex Criqui created Reclaiming the Monument, a series of light projections that transformed the Confederate statues at night, in particular the Robert E. Lee Monument. In June 2020, Governor Ralph Northam announced he had been working for a full year on plans to remove the Lee monument from the avenue. Immediately following Gov. Northam's announcement, Richmond's Mayor Stoney announced plans to remove the other four Confederate statues along with seven additional related monuments throughout the city. The City of Richmond began work to remove the city-controlled statues, beginning with the Stonewall Jackson monument, on July 1, 2020. Matthew Maury's statue was removed on July 2, and J. E. B. Stuart's on July 7.
Few streets in the United States can match the splendor imparted by Monument Avenue and its surroundings.