Did you know that the first public monument erected by European settlers in what would become Richmond City was a cross placed on the banks of the James River in 1607? Did you know that plans are currently underway to establish a monument celebrating Virginia Women on the State Capitol grounds and an Emancipation Monument on Brown's Island? Richmonders have long marked the landscape to reflect collective values and debated their meaning and role. Today, this dialogue has evolved locally and nationally as citizens continue to discuss what we have chosen to commemorate and what we have chosen to forget.
The history of monuments in Richmond reveals much about collective memory and who holds power, wealth and influence.
As you watch, consider: What can these monuments tell us about Richmond's values?
Whose voices are missing from Richmond's monumental landscape?
What makes a monument?
Accepted forms generally include statues, obelisks, landmark objects or art works like sculptures or fountains, Who gets to create them? Which voices are raised up by their presence and which voices are silenced? From its colonial past to its diverse present, Richmond is a place where state and national experiences are remembered and recorded in the form of monuments.
Sculptor Randolph Rogers (1825-1892) grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and moved at age 20 to New York City, where he produced a series of portrait busts for the store where he was a clerk. His coworkers funded a trip to Florence for Rogers where he won critical acclaim for his figure "Nydia".
Rogers had only been sculpting for five years when he created the Columbus doors for the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, establishing his reputation as an artist. Following the 1857 death of sculptor Thomas Crawford, Rogers was asked to complete the Virginia Washington Monument at the State Capitol in Richmond.
A view of the Virginia Washington Monument circa 1865 taken for the War Views series and captioned, "Washington Monument, in the Capitol Grounds, Richmond, Va./The statues around the certre base are those of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Mason."
Stereographs were meant to be viewed win 3-D with a stereoscope. Looking at the image up close and in 3-D allowed the viewer to feel like they were entering the scene.
This souvenir collar box with a bas relief decorative top panel features the Virginia Washington Monument completed in 1869. The panel is molded form gutta-percha (hard rubber) of the type patented in 1851 by the Goodyear Company. The base and lid are of American white pine and the interior is lined with pale blue glossy paper.
This sterling silver collector's tea spoon features the Virginia Washington Monument in addition to others. Richmond, the state capital of Virginia, was established at the falls of the James River in the early, 18th century. It developed as a tourist destination in the late-19th century due to its connections to American history.
In 1915, Richmond sculptor Frederick William Sievers (1872-1966) entered a competition for a monument to Virginia to be placed on the historic Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg, PA. Sievers's plaster maquette was submitted to the committee where it underwent several design changes.
The Virginia Monument is a Battle of Gettysburg memorial to the commonwealth with a bronze equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee on his horse, Traveller supported by a secondary "bronze group of figures representing the Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry of the Confederate Army". The granite pedestal without the bronze sculptures was dedicated on June 3 for the 1913 Gettysburg reunion. On June 8, 1917, Virginia governor Henry C. Stuart presented the completed memorial to the Assistant Secretary of War.
Edward V. Valentine (1838-1930) was a prominent Richmond sculptor whose work space is one of only four surviving 19th century sculpture studios in the United States that is open to the public. A visit to the restored studio located in the museum's garden offers a glimpse into the mind and career of the artist.
During World War I, approximately 100,000 Virginians served in the military; more than 3,700 gave their lives and many more were wounded. About 39% of the draftees in 1918 were African American.
In January 1913, artist Charles Hoffbauer (1875-1957) began work on the Memorial Military Murals at Battle Abbey (later the Virginia Historical Society). The Lost Cause themed murals were nearly completed when war intervened in 1914. Hoffbauer returned to his native France to enlist as a soldier. He returned to Richmond in 1919 and the murals were formally unveiled in January 1921.
The Lost Cause
The Lost Cause is an interpretation of the American Civil War (1861-1865) that seeks to present the war from the perspective of Confederates, in the best possible terms. Developed and coined by white Southerns in a postwar climate of economic, racial and social uncertainty, the Lost Cause narrative created and romanticized the "Old South" and the Confederate war effort, often distorting history in the process.
Technical drawing for pedestal base. The statue of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (1824-1863) was unveiled on October 26, 1875.
Designed by Irish sculptor John Henry Foley, the bronze sculpture was the gift of English gentlemen, in honor of the deceased Virginian. Pedestal base inscription: Presented by English gentlemen as a tribute of admiration for the soldier and patriot Thomas J. Jackson, and gratefully accepted by Virginia in the name of the Southern people. Done A.D. 1875. In the hundredth year of the Commonwealth. "Look! There is Jackson standing like a stone wall."
The statue by Irish sculptor Henry Foley (1818-1874) of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was one of the artist's last works.
Cast in London England, the monument was dedicated on October 26, 1875 before an estimated 40,000 onlookers that included many former soldiers and friends of the late Virginian.
General Jackson (1824-1863) was memorialized in the Richmond newspaper article which recalls the tragic events surrounding his death from "friendly fire" and the large outpouring of grief and despair as the news became known.
In view of the Virginia Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, the Jackson bronze continued the tradition of placing monuments around the seat of state government prior to the formation of Monument Avenue in the 1880's.
This reduction of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument was made from bronze remaining from the casting of the monument on Libby Hill, in Richmond, VA.
The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument Association formed in 1889 with the purpose to erect a monument that would be modeled after "Pompey's Billar" in Alexandria Egypt. The Richmond monument depicts a bronze Confederate private standing on top of a pillar, which is composed of 13 granite blocks representing each of the Confederate states.
The monument was completed on the southern end of 29th Street in 1894, at an approximate cost of $30,000.
The City Beautiful Movement
The City Beautiful movement was an American urban-planning and social welfare effort led by architects, landscape architects and reformers that grew between the 1890's and the 1920's. The idea of organized comprehensive urban planning developed in the United States from the City Beautiful movement which claimed that design could not be separated from social issues and should encourage civic pride and engagement.
The earliest proposal for creating a broad avenue in Richmond in the City Beautiful manner is the 1888 plan for the division of the Allen Estate.
The 1890 unveiling of Jean Antoine Marcie's equestrian bronze of General Robert E. Lee established a central design element. Monument Avenue was reasoned the logical place to honor Lost Cause leaders.
Homes appeared on the avenue beginning in 1902, and Richmond's City Council approved the extension of the avenue west to Boulevard from its original terminus at Allison Street in 1906. As soon as Monument Avenue began to be paved with block pavers in 1907, the avenue drew the city's elite to live, promenade and drive.
Not every monument planned is built. The first proposed memorial to honor Jefferson Davis was a Beaux Arts structure planned by the Jefferson Davis Monument Association.
Intended to be built in Monroe Park, the temple was directly influenced by the City Beautiful school of design. The 1890's plan shows an impressive domed stone building that would have been perfectly at home in a European city.
Due to the economic recessions of the 1890's, the grandiose temple was never fully funded and remained unbuilt by the JDMA in 1899, the project and the funds raised ($20,000) were formally transferred by the men to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who ultimately built the Jefferson Davis Monument on Monument Avenue.
Joseph Bryan Park is a 262-acre public space in Richmond that was established as a memorial to Joseph Bryan (1845-1908), the founder and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper.
It was given to the city in 1910 by his widow Belle Steward Bryan and their children. A monumental stone arch was added in the memory of Belle in 1912 by the City Council at a cost of $5000. The park entrance was relocated and the present gate was erected by the Turnpike Authority in the late 1950's using stone and wrought-iron fencing and bronze commemoration plaques from the original arch.
Details of Richmond Monuments
In 2018, Dana Ollestad was commissioned by the Valentine to visually record details the monuments in our community. Ollestad is a multi-media artist and curator currently based in Richmond, Virginia. His work presents seemingly simple gestures that facilitate experience and encounter, using the audience to create open-ended structures that may be influenced, but never fully controlled. He is a recipient of a VMFA Professional grant, a co-organizer for Studio Two Three Film and Video Series. He is a faculty member of VCU School of the Arts, Department of Photography and Film.
The current 1907 bronze cross commemorates the arrival of Captain Christopher Newport and his party of English explorers at the future side of Richmond on May 24, 1607.
Past research by the Valentine placed the original 1607 monument site near the 14th Street of Mayo Bridge.
Albert Lybrock (1827-1886) designed a cast iron Gothic Revival style structure, now known to our community as "The Birdcage" to protect the tomb of James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth United States president.
Monroe died on July 4, 1831 and was buried in New York City. His remains were reinterred in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery in 1858.
Oakwood Cemetary is estimated to contain the remains of more than 16,000 Confederate soldiers, making it the second largest Confederate cemetery in America. Many burials were casualties of the 1862 campaign as well as patients who died in the Chimborazo and Howard's Grove hospitals.
Erected in 1870, not long after the conclusion of the Civil War, a large granite obelisk honors those Confederate dead.
Unveiled on November 6, 1955, the Emek Shalom Holocaust Memorial Cemetery is one of the first Holocaust memorials in North America.
Located in Forest Lawn on the former site of John Carter's Myrtle Grove plantation, the monument lists the names of more than 400 family members of Jewish Richmonders who perished in the Holocaust during World War II.
The Bill "Bojangles" Robinson statue was cast in Reynolds Metal Company aluminum by Jack Witt and erected by the Astoria Beneficial Club in June 30, 1973. It's at the corner of Leigh and Adams streets, where in 1933 Robinson paid to have a stoplight installed after seeing children trying to cross at this busy intersection.
A monument to Richmond native Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (1878-1949), the statue has become a Jackson Ward landmark and the first erected in Richmond to honor an African American resident. Robinson became one of America's most popular musical comedy performers of his era.
The 9-food tall bronze Headman statue on Brown's Island represents an antebellum James River boatman and celebrates black Richmonder's contributions to early commerce. the work of local artist Paul DiPasquale, the piece was unveiled in November 1993.
DiPasquale is known for several public artworks: the Native American Connecticut (1985) formerly at the Diamond, and the Arthur Ashe Jr. statue (1996) on Monument Avenue.
The Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on the grounds of Capitol Square recognizes the 1951 protest lead by student Barbara Johns (1935-1991) against the poor conditions and continued segregation at Robert R. Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. This action led to the U.S. Supreme Court case Davis v. County of School Board of Prince Edward County.
The monument was designed by Stanley Bleifeld (1924-2001) and features 18 statues of participants in the Civil Rights Movement. The bronze figures are placed on four sides of ta rectangular granite stone block into which are carved quotes. The memorial cost $2.8 million and was privately funded.
The African Burial Ground located at 15th and E. Broad streets in the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood appears on a city surveyor's map of 1809 as a "Burial Ground for Negroes." Richmond's African Burial Ground was active from before 1750 through 1816.
Long lost to view, repossession began on October 10, 2004 with the dedication of the historic highway marker "Gabriel's Execution" on the sidewalk overpass on E. Broad Street between 15th and 16th streets. The Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project formed to carry out the reclamation of Richmond's black history.
The Richmond Slavery Reconciliation Statue is one of three identical monuments placed around the world. Richmond, Virginia along with Liverpool, England, and the Republic of Benin, all played a leading role in the international slave trade.
Unveiled on March 31, 2007, the statue was realized after a years-long effort on the continents to raise awareness and increase informational accuracy about Richmond's role in the slave trade.
Erected not far from Richmond's former slave market in Shockoe Bottom, the 15-foot, half-ton bronze sculpture was created by Liverpool artist Stephen Broadbent. By the 1850's, Richmond was the second largest commercial slave center in the United States.
In certain philosophies and beliefs, the "axis mundi" is the world center, or the connection between Earth and Heaven. Fabricated from bronze with a supporting limestone wall of text. The First Freedom Monument was erected to commemorate and promote the American freedom of religion and conscience as proclaimed in Thomas Jefferson's 1786 Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom.
The 27-foot bronze spire occupies a corner of 14th and Cary streets with a stone reredos-like backdrop chiseled with an excerpt from the statue.
Dedicated on April 17, 2018, at a site selected by the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission and the Commonwealth of Virginia on the grounds of the State Capitol, the monument by sculptor Alan Michelson recognizes and honors the culture, contributions and significance of Virginia's first inhabitants--Native Americans. "Mantle" combines four integrated spiral elements to create the shape of a nautilus.
Artist Alan Michelson, a Mohawk member of Six Nations of the Grand River created Mantle which he describes, "Mantle requires the visitor to neither look up nor look down, but invites one to enter--from the east--and participate in it. It is not conceived as a static monument to be venerated but an active one to be experienced by moving off the everyday grid and into the American Indian circle".
Business leader Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934) lived at 110 1/2 E. Leigh Street. The resident was part of "Quality Row," a block of homes owned by African American professionals in the Jackson Ward neighborhood.
In 2017, the city unveiled a monument by artist Toby Mendez at the intersection of East Broad and Adams streets to commemorate Walker's legacy to the city. The 10-foot bronze statue of a 45-yearold Walker is bordered by inscriptions tracing her life. Walker achieved success as a mother, teacher, newspaper publisher, banker and civil rights leader.
Whose Voices are Missing?
Have you noticed any voices or perspectives missing from the conversation? People of color, women, the LGBTQ community, minority religious groups, immigrants and other marginalized groups have historically been absent from the planning of and representation in monuments--certainly the Lost Cause monuments. In the period immediately after the American Civil War (1861-1865), formerly enslaved people, free aftrican Americans and white citizens redefined new ways to live and work together. Unfortunately, this co-existence often included the use of fear and intimidation as a tactic to silence Richmond's African American community, including passage of Jim Crow laws and the ratification of the 1902 Constitution which disenfranchised the African American community. The result was many voices lost to history.
During the Civil War Centennial (1961-1965) there were attempts made to honor Sally Tompkins legacy. One memorable effort was to erect a statue of Tompkins on Monument Avenue. The surrealist design proposed by artist Salvador Dali (1904-1989) was not well-received and was never executed. Watch the video to learn more about Tompkins and the proposed sculpture.
The Virginia Emancipation Proclamation and Freedom Monument will be a permanent 12-foot monument celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people and hard-won freedom from racial bondage.
It will be located on Brown's Island in Richmond, which was home to free black Richmonders after the fall of Confederate Richmond and the end of the Civil War.
The estimated $800,000 monument designed by American sculptor Jay Warren -- planned by a state commission as part of Virginia's efforts to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation -- also features a female figure holding up high a document inscribed with the date of Abraham Lincoln's 1863 order that declared slaves free in the rebellion states, including Virginia. Virginia's Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial Commission anticipates the bronze monument to be in place in 2019, when the state will mark the 400th anniversary of the recorded appearance of the first Africans at Jamestowne.
Visitor participation in MONUMENTAL
Visitors were invited to join the conversation by adding their own thoughts to the exhibition. Responses to the questions "How do Richmond's monuments make you feel?" and "Who or what should have a monument in Richmond?" were hand-written by museum guests who then posted their replies on the gallery windows.
Where do we go from here?
Christoper Newport's original wooden cross vanished from the landscape sometime after 1607. Some hypothesize that native peoples may have contributed to its disappearance, while others suggest natural causes like weather probably played a factor. Would the truth change the object's meaning? What does this story tell us about the power of memory, commemoration and history.
David Voelkel, The Elise H. Wright Curator of General Collections
Custom Art Installations
Russell Bernabo, conservation
Steven Casanova, exhibition gallery photography
Elizabeth Anne Enright, graphic design
Dana Ollestad, photography and video production