Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has ordered the 40-foot-tall pedestal, which once held up the Robert E. Lee monument on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, be removed by the end of the year. The ground itself will be transferred to the city.
No doubt, part of this decision was in response to the loss of the governor’s mansion to the Republican Party last month. The pedestal’s removal and transfer of land ensures that the site will never be used again to celebrate the Confederacy’s Lost Cause.
That said, I have some concerns about this decision. For some the pedestal, including its many layers of tagging, was seen as the foundation for a new commemorative vision for the city. It is unclear as to whether community leaders were consulted before this decision was made.
There is no word on how the pedestal will be removed and whether it will be done in a way that allows for future interpretation of the activism and the many ways that the site served as a gathering place for Richmonders between June 2020 and this past summer, before the site was closed off to the public.
One possibility is to utilize parts of the pedestal in whatever plan is eventually embraced by the city. Work begins tomorrow and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. It is truly the end of Monument Avenue as we know it.
Update: “The pedestal will be preserved and put into storage by the state until a more permanent destination can be worked out, said Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for Northam (D). ‘Obviously the pedestal means a lot to a lot of people,’ Yarmosky said. ‘The commonwealth is going to work with different folks — likely historians, the Department of Historic Resources — to figure out where it’s going to be put.'”