Confederate pedestals out

Grass and landscaping to soon replace dead soldiers

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 2/3/2022, 6 p.m.
Richmond’s streets and parks will soon lose virtually all vestiges of the white-supremacist Confederate statues and monuments that once loomed …
Team Henry Enterprises is contracted to dismantle the pedestals throughout the city that once held Confederate monuments. The first pedestal, where Matthew F. Maury stood on Monument Avenue, came down Tuesday. Photo by Regina H. Boone

Richmond’s streets and parks will soon lose virtually all vestiges of the white-supremacist Confederate statues and monuments that once loomed so large.

City Hall launched Black History Month by authorizing a Black contractor, Devon Henry, to remove the pedestals that once held the already removed statues.

Work began in Monroe Park on Monday on the $1.56 million project and will continue until statue bases are gone, replaced with grass, landscaping or asphalt, it has been announced.

The city’s work follows Team Henry’s state-paid removal of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the base that held it. The state also turned over the traffic circle at Monument and Allen avenues to the city.

The new initiative, though, will not clear away all the Confederate flotsam and jetsam in the city. City Council, for example, has taken no steps to change the name of the Robert E. Lee Bridge or most of street names honoring Confederates, and neither the city nor the courts have sought to remove a Confederate marker from the lawn of the Henry and Harold Marsh General District Courts Building in South Side.

Still, the work that has been authorized is extensive.

Team Henry workers this week also have removed copies of two Confederate cannons and the bases for previously removed statues of the Richmond Howitzers and of Confederate Gen. Williams C. Wickham.

The city’s list includes the pedestals of the former statues that once dominated Monument Avenue: Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate Gens. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart, Confederate Navy Commander Matthew F. Maury.

Also to be removed is the giant pedestal that held the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors statue in Libbie Hill Park in Church Hill.

The city’s list of removals also includes the statue of Confederate Gen. A. P. Hill, that still stands in a traffic circle at Hermitage Road and Laburnum Avenue.

According to the city, everything, including Gen. Hill’s grave that lies underneath the statue and pedestal, is to be removed leaving a flat area that can be paved over.

City officials are working with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to gain the required permits and coordinate a chain of custody to allow for the transfer of the grave to another burial site.

The clearing of Gen. Hill’s site could take two months or more.

Pedestal removals will be accompanied by streetscaping and landscaping efforts that have already been approved, the city noted, with both the removals and the follow-up work likely to require traffic detouring.

Team Henry was initially awarded a $1.5 million contract to clear the pedestals, but that was increased to $1.56 million to provide for the purchase of plastic pallets to enable the statues and pedestals to be stored correctly.

That cost is in addition to the $1.8 million the company was paid on the original contract to remove the statues. The company also has received additional amounts from the state and city to remove the Lee statue and pedestal, although that amount has not been disclosed.

Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s administration indicated that the cost is being paid for from the budgets of Public Works and Public Utilities.

Under an ordinance City Council approved Jan. 24, title to the statues and pedestals is being vested in the Richmond-based Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, although the city is to continue to store them until the museum and its partners, including The Valentine, develop a plan for them.