Monument Avenue Historic District
The Monument Avenue Historic District was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1967, was extended in 1989, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997. [†]
See also: Monument Avenue, 3300 Block.
The Monument Avenue Historic District includes 263 residential, religious, and commercial properties on Monument Avenue and West Franklin Street in Richmond, Virginia. There are 251 contributing buildings, six contributing objects, twelve noncontributing buildings and one noncontributing object. Monument Avenue is located in the near west end of the city of Richmond, and is a western extension of Franklin Street. The original section of Monument Avenue was laid out in 1887 and most of the buildings in the historic area were built between the turn of the century and about 1930. Since the erection of the first few houses on Monument Avenue in 1901, the street has been one of Richmond's most fashionable addresses, and definitely its most famous. Studded with monuments and lined with stylish mansions, Monument Avenue housed the leaders of business and commerce in Richmond for decades. About two decades of gradual decline saw the grand mansions turned into boarding houses and apartments, but the downward slide was ended by concerned citizens who began to reclaim the street for single families. Very few buildings have been demolished, and infill is generally sympathetic to the original character of the street.
The street developed westward, and the buildings can be loosely categorized by the era during which the block was developed. The avenue itself is 140' wide, with a median that has a double row of trees that form an allee on either side of the street with the trees planted along the sidewalks. The buildings within the historic district include a rich mix of architectural styles that remain compatible through the use of similar materials, cornice lines, setbacks, and other repetitive visual devices. Though none of the buildings would probably be considered individually eligible as a National Historic Landmark, the assemblage and its setting are significant nationally by virtue of its sculpture. It is the only one of many grand avenues planned during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries that has a memorial program. Other boulevards are peppered with monuments, but until 1996 all the sculptures on Monument Avenue honored heroes of the Confederacy. There was never any official theme endorsed by the local government or civic groups but, until recently, the sculpture that was proposed for Monument Avenue always focused on the Confederacy. With the recent addition of the Arthur Ashe Monument, the theme has been more clearly defined as a street dedicated to heroes. Both the city and the street became nationally known, and few visitors leave Richmond without a tour down Monument Avenue.
Monument Avenue was planned as an extension of a fashionable residential street. Due to the Panic of 1893 and the depression that followed, the first buildings were not erected until ten years after the 1890 unveiling of the Lee Monument, the sculpture that was planned as the street's centerpiece. The first houses were stylistically cautious, relying on Queen Anne and Victorian massing, but the first three blocks began to fill up quickly and the sizes and styles of the houses became more assertive very soon. Adjacent property owners and the city kept extending the street further beyond the initial development, and the buildings evolved as the street lengthened. The first two decades saw competitive building, with each house acquiring more ornament, bigger windows, and a grander composition. These early houses were often townhouses with sidehalls, and the ornament was almost always confined to the facade. The choice of styles evolved, with Colonial and Classical Revival variations overtaking the more idiosyncratic compositions of the earlier years. Free-standing houses, with more horizontal compositions, became more frequent after the first few blocks, as the original owners of the property sold off lots in irregular sizes and with fewer deed restrictions. Churches and a school were added to the street, and their styles were in keeping with the residential styles, in fact the school is barely discernible. Materials are generally brick, sometimes stone or stucco. Many of the houses have garages on the alley behind, usually built in similar style and materials. The size of the lots preclude large gardens, but most houses have some green space between the house and the alley and very few have a side yard of any size.
The proposed National Historic Landmark district encompasses 14 blocks of Monument Avenue, from Stuart Circle to Roseneath, and one block at the end of West Franklin Street, just before Monument Avenue begins. These blocks previously have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Monument Avenue Historic District, along with the adjacent blocks on the south and north. The proposed district includes only the lots that face on Monument Avenue, including the alleys behind them. Although the houses on the streets adjacent to Monument reflect the context in which the street was created, the houses facing Monument Avenue itself are most appropriate for the purposes of the National Historic Landmark program. The district proposed here extends several feet across the western-most boundary of the earlier historic district to include the intersection of Roseneath and Monument. This intersection had been planned as a site for a monument in 1925, when the cross street was laid out with a median and the corners were rounded to reflect the future placement of a sculpture. The earlier district ended at the eastern edge of this street, not including the site of the most recent monument added to the street.
Methodology: The proposed boundary was drawn after examination of the current district boundaries by the staff of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and an independent consultant. The district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places is larger and more inclusive of Monument Avenue's context, including the rowhouses of the middle class neighbors of Monument Avenue's elite. The discussions about the National Historic Landmark district focused on representing the actual fabric of Monument Avenue -- the houses, sculpture and planning of the street itself. The street is considered eligible for its series of monuments to the Confederacy, framed by an outstanding, well-preserved collection of residential and ecclesiastical architecture within a specific, planned urban landscape. The adjacent neighborhoods were deemed peripheral to the focus of a nomination discussing national significance. The district was extended across one intersection to include a site that had been designated as the potential location for a monument as long ago as 1925, when the intersection was planned and the corners rounded. Because this site has now been utilized, the intersection was added so the sculpture can be considered as part of the body of monuments that the city and region have gathered to honor their heroes. The buildings along the avenue constructed after 1940 and the Ashe Monument are too recent to evaluate.
General: Aside from some general discussions of building types and styles, Monument Avenue will be examined here block by block, from east to west, to reflect the general development of the street. The monuments, which were not all erected in geographic order, will be discussed by location. Although the street developed from east to west, there are many instances of later infill on empty lots and of some development skipping ahead of the main advancement.
1200 block of West Franklin Street: Monument Avenue was created as an extension of West Franklin Street, Richmond's most stylish residential address in the late nineteenth century. In 1888 when Monument Avenue was being laid out, these lots belonged to Richmond College, which was located on the north side of the block. The lots on the south side of the block were divided and sold off at the same time as the Allen Addition, so the buildings there are earlier. The north side of the block remained part of Richmond College until the 1910s, when the school moved to the West End of Richmond and the lots were sold off.
This block includes a dense mix of different building types and functions, partly because of its location at the first traffic circle on Monument. The quadrant lots with rounded corners on a busy intersection attracted institutional uses, with two churches and a hospital. The fourth corner is the setting for the largest apartment building in the historic district. The Stuart Monument is placed in the center of the intersection, and faces downtown. Originally, when Franklin Street had two-way traffic, Stuart Circle provided a transition from the older, more urban Franklin Street to the wider, new, bright Monument Avenue, and vice-versa. Now Franklin Street is one-way, and the entrance from Monument's broad, open spaces to the tighter Franklin is made even tighter by the Stuart Monument, which has its back to the traffic flow.
The 1200 block includes three apartment buildings, seven houses, two churches, a parish house, and a hospital. On the south side, at the eastern end of the block is St. James's Protestant Episcopal Church, which consists of three buildings. Constructed between 1911 and 1913, the church is a spectacular neoclassical temple-fronted building, designed by the Richmond firm of Noland and Baskervill. A full two-story portico supported by six Composite columns, and a 200' tall steeple mark the church's presence far down the street. In 1995 lightning struck the steeple during a summer thunderstorm, and the resulting fire caused extensive damage to the sanctuary. The church was restored and reopened for Easter, 1997. The Sunday School building was built at the same time as the sanctuary, and has since been connected to the house next door, a brick parish house. The parish house is the oldest house in the survey area, built in 1888 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, like many of the houses further east down Franklin Street. A later apartment building and two Colonial Revival, single-family residences fill the area between St. James and Stuart Circle Hospital on the south side of the 1200 block.
Stuart Circle is the only hospital in the survey area of Monument Avenue. It was built in 1913-1914 in a Colonial Revival style, and was designed by Richmond architect Charles M. Robinson. The original block of the hospital curved slightly at its west end to reflect the curved corner at the intersection, but a later addition curves further around the quadrant.
The north side of the block was not sold off as building lots until the 1910s, and was not built up until the 1920s, so the houses here present a solidly Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts aesthetic. One house, 1218 West Franklin, even boasts a gambrel roof -- unusual in an urban setting. Two of the apartment buildings in the 1200 block, 1207 West Franklin on the south side and 1214-16 West Franklin on the north, have almost identical facades and were both built in 1925. Both three-story buildings have central portions of five bays framed by pilasters supporting a blind arcade, flanked by projecting one-bay pavilions. Their simple ornament is aided by the mix of three materials: brick, stucco and tile.
St. John's United Church of Christ occupies the northeast corner of Stuart Circle. This Gothic structure was designed by a member of the congregation, Richmond architect Carl Lindner. Before the purchase of this lot, the congregation was located in a church downtown, but the church purchased this land from Richmond College in 1913 since so many members were moving further west. The new church was built in two phases, with the parish house finished in 1921 and the main sanctuary completed in 1928. The facade, which faces the Stuart Monument, is dominated by an elaborate, arched stained glass window outlined by limestone tracery. The central portal of the three arched entrances underneath echoes the shape of the window. A bell tower rises behind a triple-arched cloister that leads to the parish house west of the sanctuary.
Stuart Circle: The J. E. B. Stuart Monument fills a small traffic circle in the intersection of Lombardy and Monument avenues. The bronze equestrian sculpture sits on a granite base encircled by a cast iron fence of spears. Stuart and his horse are caught in a moment of drama, and his dashing uniform and plumed hat add even more dimension to composition. The sculptor, Fred Moynihan of New York, was inspired by a sculpture of the British General Outram, done for a site in Calcutta by John Foley. The sculpture was unveiled in 1907 at the largest Confederate reunion ever held. It was the second sculpture dedicated on Monument Avenue, and the easternmost one. The horse faces north, but Stuart is turned in the saddle and faces east.
1600 Block of Monument Avenue: The 1600 block is the only block on Monument to be framed by two sculptures; Stuart to the east and Lee to the west. At the eastern end, facing the Stuart Monument are a large apartment building and a church. This block developed in three stages. First came early Queen Anne and Romanesque residential development before 1910. Next came the Colonial Revival townhouses and mansions between 1910 and 1915, and then apartments and two more houses during the 1920s. The major structures on the street, the large Stuart Court Apartments of 1925, First English Lutheran Church of 1910, and Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church of 1920 were all built after most of the residences.
The first house built with a Monument Avenue address, 1601 Monument, built in 1901, was demolished in 1978 to make room for a parking garage for Stuart Circle Hospital. That house, and the next few built, nos. 1616, 1620, 1626, and 1634, are all Romanesque Revival townhouses with varied massing and a few Colonial Revival details that foreshadow the dominant style of the next decades. The houses on the north side of the street were built in 1903 by W. J. Payne. Their bays, porches, and rooflines all reflect the styles of the Fan District nearby on a larger scale. Payne evidently built them at the same time but not on adjacent lots to encourage development between them. A few other houses with Romanesque details were built, but by 1907 some Colonial Revival houses dotted the block, and between 1910 and 1913 seven houses were built within a clearer Colonial Revival style. One of these, 1631, was built for Otway S. Allen and his wife, Mary McDonald Allen. Allen waited until 1910 to begin a house on the avenue, and his death in 1911 came before the house was completed. John Kevan Peebles of Norfolk designed the house, which recalls the Federal era in Richmond. Three stories with a prominent cornice and parapet, the Allen House has a bowed bay, a triple window, quoins, and a stringcourse at the base of the third story windows. A pedimented doorframe housing an elegant fanlight grounds the facade.
First English Evangelical Lutheran Church, the first church built on Monument Avenue, was consecrated in 1911. It sits at the southwest corner of Stuart Circle. In 1909 the congregation had purchased four quadrant lots, and Reverend John Scherer, the pastor, urged his parishioners to help him build "a Lutheran church as fine as any the Baptists, Methodists and Episcopalians had," in the "most progressive and prosperous section of new Richmond." They commissioned a Gothic Revival design from Charles Robinson. On the facade, a large, arched, stained glass window is embedded in a granite central gable. The gable is flanked by matching bell towers and a pair of two-story wings.
Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, also on the southside at 1627, is also Gothic Revival. It was designed in 1922 by John Kevan Peebles, of Norfolk. The facade is dominated by a large stained-glass window, outlined by granite tracery which contrasts with the brick walls of the facade. The recessed entry is also outlined in granite. A 1919 Sunday School building is next to the sanctuary.
Number 1617, the second of the two school buildings built on Monument Avenue for the Collegiate School for Girls, survives. It is between the two churches on the side of the block. Built in 1918, it was designed to blend easily south with the residences around it. Its subtle Colonial Revival details and three-story brick facade are only differentiated from houses on the block by the pair of glass doors that form a central entry, flanked by two French doors.
On the north side of Monument Avenue at Lombardy sits Stuart Court Apartments, designed by the New York architect William Lawrence Bottomley in 1924. At nine stories tall with more than sixty apartments, Stuart Court is easily the largest apartment building in the survey area. The Mediterranean-style, reinforced concrete construction is clad in stucco and ornamented with varied windows, quoins stringcourses, balconies, and frescoes. The active roofline includes concrete urns and some picturesque structures, although the original cornice was deteriorating and had to be removed. The building was recently painted yellow, which amplifies its presence on the busy corner.
Lee Circle: The Lee Monument is easily the largest and grandest of the statues on Monument Avenue. The wide, green circle which it anchors bulges out, forcing traffic to curve around it. The bronze equestrian sculpture of Lee by Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercie is twenty-one feet tall and weighs about 12 tons. It sits on a granite pedestal forty feet high designed by Paul Pujot, a French architect. Bronze tablets attached to the sides of the base say simply, "LEE." The horse and rider exude a sense of serenity, strength, and dignity. The organizers requested a sculpture that communicates Lee's wisdom and goodness, rejecting an earlier, more aggressive model by the same sculptor. Lee faces south, holding his hat in his hand. Both the sheer size and the artistic presence of the sculpture command attention, and the stillness of the sculpture actually transmits a sense of calm that fits the grand, architectural setting of the monument. It was unveiled on May 29, 1890 and stood alone on Monument for eleven years afterward.
1800 Block Monument Avenue: The 1800 block of Monument Avenue filled up quickly. The first house was built in 1902, and by 1909 there were nineteen single-family residences. There are twenty-six buildings on the block, twenty-five of them are single-family residences. As the authors of the HABS study point out, the varied forms of the houses show the attempts to find an appropriate form for Monument Avenue residences. The owners and designers were looking for a way to build a private home in a public space.
The south side of the block has slightly larger lots, allowing for several side yards and more horizontal compositions. The north side of the block is taller, closer, and therefore more integrated, with one notable exception at the east end. This block face is perhaps the most urban group on Monument, with cornices, balustrades, and one-story Colonial Revival entrance porches creating a unified pattern. The first house built on the block, number 1842, has a tent roof over a bay, paired with an exaggerated gable to create a Queen Anne townhouse facade. Several of the other houses have Queen Anne elements, but classicism is a stronger influence on the block. The quadrants at the Lee Circle were built later, as is usual on Monument, perhaps revealing a reluctance to reside on an even more public site.
Significant houses on the block include the house at 1817 Monument, which is unusual stylistically. An eclectic mix of Queen Anne, Stick, and Shingle styles, the house has competing gables, fish-scale shingles, and varied fenestration. The first owner was the president of a lumber company, but because of deed restrictions calling for brick and stone construction, he was unable to use his own house as an advertisement for lumber.
Another house, number 1839, was designed in 1908 by the Richmond architect Marion J. Dimmock. Enormous by any standard, this symmetrical, Colonial Revival house has a central porch that is flanked by Palladian windows set within blind arches. Adding quoins, a triple window, a stringcourse, and a balustraded terrace, the house can be seen as a virtual catalogue of classical features.
The house at 1821 Monument was built in 1914 and designed by Duncan Lee. It has a handsome, subdued, two-bay facade. The green tile roof suggests a Prairie influence, but the pair of French doors and the flat planes of the facade also look French Renaissance.
Probably the best-known house on the block was the last one built. William Lawrence Bottomley designed 1800 Monument, at Lee Circle, for Mr. and Mrs. William Jeffress. This symmetrical, five-bay Georgian Revival house is typical of Bottomley's work in Richmond. The classical design, the luxurious details, and the graceful handling of a potentially awkward lot make this house one of the street's most handsome.
The largest building on the block is the Lee Medical Building, which was not erected until 1950 in the quadrant lot that had remained vacant at the southwest corner of the Lee Circle. Its decidedly classical detailing breaks up the large mass of its front facade. Colossal order stone pilasters, a rusticated base and an implied pediment suggest a temple-front.
2000 Block of Monument Avenue: The last block of the original Allen Addition, the 2000 block developed early, with two-thirds of the residences complete by 1912. The north side of the block is fairly regular and dense, while the south side includes some larger lots on the western half of the block. A broad range of styles are included, some Queen Anne, some eclectic, but mostly Colonial Revival.
The earliest on the block, built in 1902, was erected at 2000 Monument Avenue. A wide, somewhat symmetrical facade deviates with an even wider porch that wraps around the western side of the house. A rear tower on one side and a door to the other side add to the mix. The house's horizontality is emphasized by the porch, a pair of oval windows flanking the second floor, a dark stringcourse contrasting with the buff brick of the walls, and a broad band of windows in the dormer. Next door is a tremendous double-house, with a cross-gabled roofline and two separate porches and entries. Further down the block at number 2020, Noland and Baskervill designed a Renaissance Revival, limestone townhouse in 1905. Distinctive in its rich details, the house was the first three-story dwelling on the avenue, and is one of the few with a limestone facade.
On the south side of the block is one of the most successful solutions on Monument Avenue for a house with an office included. Duncan Lee designed number 2017-19 for Dr. Henry A. Bullock, who wished to have a first-floor office and live above. The Classical Revival result enlists two front doors, equally important, on either side of the first floor facade. On the second floor, a central Palladian window indicates the family's living spaces.
Number 2023 is one of the most idiosyncratic houses on Monument Avenue. The large stuccoed brick house has half timbering on the upper floors, making it a mix of Tudor Revival and Stick styles. It is a large house on an oversized lot, and was recently renovated after years of neglect. Another, even larger, house was built in 1911 at 2037 Monument. Although it is so large it appears to be institutional, it was built as a single-family dwelling. It was built by a contractor for himself, and its elegant Beaux Arts facade probably attracted many clients.
The most recent building in the historic district is number 2016, a one-story, dark glass and frame, Modern doctor's office. The building's jarring presence probably did as much to stir up feelings about Monument Avenue as any monument has done.
2200 Block of Monument: The 2200 block is the first block outside the Allen Addition to be developed. Building began on the block in 1905 and, except for two lots, was complete by 1918. Many of the houses on the south side of the street were speculatively built rowhouses. The last two lots were on the corners of the south side of the street, and were finally used for an apartment building in 1924 and a church in 1931. The north side of the street developed fairly typically, with several Colonial Revival townhouses and a few larger mansions.
One of the most notable houses on the block is number 2220, which boasts different window types on every floor. The elaborate facade, designed by Richmond architect C. K. Howell of Scarborough and Howell, was constructed for the local window manufacturer Harry S. Binswanger, who probably saw the variety as a wonderful advertisement for his company. Moses Binswanger, the vice-president of Binswanger's window company, built a house down the street at 2230. A handsome house, designed by D. Wiley Anderson, 2230 is also the only house on the block with a side yard. Its rich facade of buff brick with a green tile roof, leaded windows, Palladian dormer, and Ionic columns also spoke well for the local building community. Also on the north side is 2208, one of the only houses on Monument with a strong Prairie school influence.
Most of the south side of the street was developed in phases by Harvey C. Brown. Though they are not all attached and their facades have variations, they are obviously a group and are all brick, Colonial Revival houses with unified window, roof and cornice patterns. They are mostly three-bay, two-and-a-half stories with gabled dormers, and several were designed by I. T. Skinner, a Richmond architect. A large apartment building and a larger single-family house break up the mass of the Brown houses. At the west end of the block is the glamorous Rixey Court Apartments, designed by Bascom Rowlett and built in 1926. A lively, Mediterranean facade with baroque qualities, Rixey Court broadcasts its owner's intentions to create luxury apartments for Monument Avenue. At the opposite end of the block, Marcellus Wright designed the First Church of Christ Scientist in 1931. The last building on the block is a neoclassical, temple-form church with giant order engaged columns.
2300 Block of Monument: The 2300 block of Monument is an atypical block, though it is the block that many people think of when they picture Monument Avenue. This block has wider lots and therefore fewer buildings than most, providing an openness that complements the large houses. All nineteen buildings on the block are single-family dwellings, built between 1909 and 1925, with four constructed in 1910 and three in 1915.
The north side of the block is mostly red brick, Colonial Revival, in varying forms. One-story porches with balustrades above are peppered down the block, and architects dealt creatively with off-center entrances. Two houses, number 2320 and number 2314, have very similar, four-bay facades with hipped roofs and no porch. Number 2320 was designed by William Lawrence Bottomley in 1927 in red brick with a slate roof, but the house next door at 2314, built earlier in 1915, was done in yellow brick with a green tile roof, which gives it an Arts and Crafts effect.
A huge Tudor Revival mansion sits at 2312 Monument, architects Carneal and Johnston used a front, stepped parapet gable and a massive entrance porch to ornament this impressive 1915 house.
One of the most expensive houses built on Monument was based on Mompesson House in Salisbury, England. Number 2304 was designed by Carneal and Johnston in 1924, the same year that Bottomley also designed a house based on Mompesson House, only one block away at Robinson and Monument. It is not known why two houses so close together would be based on one house in England, but perhaps it was written up in an architectural publication that year. The owner, a doctor, is said to have been asked by his architect what kind of house he would like. His response was that he would not ask his patients for medical opinions, and that he had hired the architect to make the architectural decisions.
On the south side of the street, two very large houses on large lots dominate the entire west end of the block. The Blair House at 2327, facing the Davis Monument, is the only house on Monument Avenue with a two-story portico. A prominent pediment supported by giant order columns fronts a five-bay Colonial Revival house. First-time visitors to Monument Avenue probably expect to see this cliche of Southern residential architecture on every corner. Designed by Walter D. Blair, the house was built in 1913, six years after the Davis Monument was unveiled. Next door, a grand, three-story Mediterranean villa is flanked by two-story pavilions at 2325 Monument. The ornate doorframe enhances a subdued facade on the Duncan Lee-designed house. Lee designed another house on the block, number 2307, with a similar, though smaller, facade. The fervor for Mediterranean architecture in the 1910s and 1920s is apparent elsewhere on the 2300 block, with two more designs at 2315 and 2319 Monument.
In the median in the center of this block, a cannon barrel, considered a contributing structure to the district, is mounted on a stone base with a plaque commemorating the location of the earthworks that were built to protect Richmond during the Civil War. The Davis Monument: The Jefferson Davis Monument was unveiled in June, 1907. The monument is overwhelmingly tall. A giant Doric column, sixty-five feet tall, surmounted by a bronze allegorical figure named Vindicatrix rises behind a bronze figure of Jefferson Davis. Davis is depicted as an orator, with an outstretched arm. An exedra of thirteen columns wraps around the vertical element, dwarfing Davis even further. The sculptures were designed by Edward Virginius Valentine, a Richmond native, and the setting was planned by William C. Noland, of the Richmond architectural firm Noland and Baskervill. The exedra is ornamented by the bronze seals from the eleven states that seceded from the union and three others that sent troops to help the Confederate cause. Around the frieze are the words Davis spoke when he resigned from the United States Senate. The monument faces east, with its back to westward development. Presumably, it would have been odd to have the President of the Confederate States turn his back on General Lee. The monument was unveiled at the same Confederate reunion as the Stuart Monument, on June 3, 1907 -- the ninety-ninth anniversary of the birth of Jefferson Davis. The veil was pulled by Mrs. Winnie Davis Hayes, the president's only surviving child, and her two sons.
2500 Block of Monument: The block between Davis Avenue and Robinson Street is only about half the length of a regular Monument Avenue block. Its brevity is accentuated by the fact that only one house stands on the south side of the block. The north side has a mixed row of residences which carry on a more regular pattern for the avenue. A combination of Colonial Revival, eclectic, Classical, and Mediterranean houses are combined with two apartment buildings. The apartments have handsome Colonial Revival detail, however their sizes and prominent front porches do alter the scale of the block.
The Branch House is an enormous Tudor Revival mansion that clearly establishes the owner's powerful status in the community. John Kerr Branch bought the land from his father John P. Branch, who had owned much of this stretch of Monument. He built on the eastern half of the lot, evidently assuming his sister would use the other half, though she never did. Branch hired the nationally known architect John Russell Pope to concoct this impressive, detailed manor house. Completed in 1919, the main body of the house is flanked by two projecting pavilions. The roof is double-pitched with parapets and castellation. The eastern pavilion has a three-story castellated bay. Elaborate detail is provided in limestone door- and window-surrounds, chimney pots, patterned brickwork, and leaded glass. The house is currently used as the offices of the Northwest Mutual Life Insurance Company, and is available to the public for events.The western half of the block is used as a landscaped parking lot.
2600 Block of Monument: The 2600 block of Monument is another short stretch with great contrast between the north and south sides of the street. The north side has dense, tall, urban structures on one side and more suburban type development on the south. John P. Branch sold the north side of the street first, without deed restrictions, but the south side was sold later, with wider lots and restrictions about building and usage.
On the north side, the houses are in the center of the block and are Colonial Revival. Though each of their facades is different, they each contribute to the rhythm of the street with single-story porches and pronounced cornices. The multiple-level porches of apartment buildings raise the sightline at either end of the block.
The south side of the block has only five houses. Two are Tudor Revival style, one a charming cottage by Otis Asbury and the other slightly more imposing by Duncan Lee. One of the houses is Colonial Revival and the other two are Georgian Revival. Number 2601 is the second house on Monument to be based on the design of Mompesson House in Salisbury, England. It was designed by Bottomley, who selected brick and slate as the materials for this interpretation. As usual, the details on the Bottomley house display tremendous craftsmanship. For instance, keystones over the windows are ornamented with thistles, to represent the Scottish heritage of the Cabells, the original owners.
2700 Block of Monument: The last block before the major intersection of the Boulevard also displays a great contrast between the north and south sides of the street. The north side of the street was developed between 1908 and 1929, with single family dwellings built almost chronologically from east to west. Colonial and Georgian Revival styles dominate, with some eclectic diversions. Because the Boulevard crosses Monument at an angle, the corner lots are irregularly shaped, and the lot at that corner on Monument has never been used.
On the south side of the block is First Baptist Church, built in 1929. The lot was evidently very boggy, and no one was tempted to use it until that late date. The main sanctuary faces Monument, near the corner. A Sunday School building and another larger addition to the east are all connected at the rear, forming an E-shaped complex. Construction began in 1927, and alterations continued past World War II. The style is remarkable consistent throughout the complex. The main sanctuary has a Doric distyle portico in antis, out of respect for the congregation's previous church of 1841 by Thomas U. Walter in downtown Richmond. The severe classicism of the sanctuary building lightens up in the rest of the complex.
The Thomas Jonathan Jackson Monument: The monument to Stonewall Jackson was designed by F. William Sievers and unveiled in 1919. The sculpture itself, another equestrian bronze, sits on a capsule-shaped granite base, facing north. The intersection is a large one, but not large enough for the sculpture to have much room around it, so its base is protected by a cast-iron fence and a high curb. Jackson and his horse are depicted in a calm moment, perhaps emphasizing Jackson's spirituality. The orientation of the sculpture is odd, since most of the traffic comes from any of the other three directions.
The 2800 and 2900 Blocks of Monument, Between the Boulevard and Sheppard: The scale of Monument Avenue changes dramatically after crossing the Boulevard, with apartment buildings dominating the first blocks. Again, however, the consistent stylistic devices and the landscaped median provide a continuity that predominates. Colonial Avenue cuts through as far as Monument on the south side of the street, creating two separate blocks that face one block on the north. Only one building in the first block on the south side faces Monument. The houses at the southwest corner of the intersection face the Boulevard, a reminder of the importance of this cross-axis.
Most of the buildings on these blocks were built between 1916 and 1928. Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Classical Revival, and Mediterranean styles are all represented, but the two- and three-story porches provide a consistent pattern of grid-like facades. The Anne-Frances apartment building at 2805 is one of the largest buildings in the historic district. The central porches form an elliptical bay in front of the buff-colored brick building with a rusticated base with arcaded openings on the ground floor. Only three houses are on this block, on the south side. All are Colonial Revival. The non-contributing building at 2907 was built much later, in 1960, and is a watered-down attempt at Colonial Revival as well.
The 2900 and 3000 Blocks of Monument, Between Sheppard and Belmont: The skewed plan of this block between Sheppard Street and Belmont Avenue reflects the fact that the city redesigned the layout of the street after the lots were sold. At the west end of the south side of this block, Franklin Street veers off in a west-south-west direction from Monument, parallel to the streets in the West of the Boulevard neighborhood. The lots at this intersection face Monument at an oblique angle, and most of the buildings on this block and the next do, too. On the north side of the block, Wayne Street dead ends at Monument, cutting the 2900 block off and beginning the 3000 block before it starts on the south side.
Although most of the buildings on this block were built in the 1920s, and many are in the Colonial Revival style, there is a lack of continuity owing to the varying orientations, lot sizes, building types, and scale. The buildings on the north side have some cohesion because most are large apartments. On the south side, though, there are apartments, duplexes, and houses, all squeezed onto the same block.
The south side owes some of its interest to the contributions of Max Ruehrmund, a Richmond architect. He designed a house for himself, one for a neighbor, and an apartment building on the block. The two small houses at 3007 and 3015 Monument have interesting features including cross gables, Flemish bond brickwork, patterned slate, and a mix of stylistic details. The apartment building at 3009 Monument has rich detailing and a broad facade with a parapet at the roofline, a wide porch supported by paired columns, triple windows and a wide cornice. On the north side of the street three single-family residences stand at the west end of the 2900 block, but otherwise the 2900 and 3000 block are filled with apartment buildings of various sizes and shapes. Most have two- and three-story porches on the front, which provides some visual unity. One unusual building, built in 1921, is 2902-04 Monument, a large, U-shaped apartment building with a center court that faces the street. The building is less-detailed than most of the others on the block, with a somewhat Arts and Crafts feel. One of the single-family residences, number 2910, was designed by the Richmond architect D. Wiley Anderson. Anderson frequently designed idiosyncratic blends of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival details, and 2910 is a typical example.
The Matthew Fontaine Maury Monument: The Maury Monument was unveiled in 1929 and is the work of the Richmond sculptor F. William Sievers, who also designed the Stonewall Jackson Monument at the Boulevard. Sievers was inspired by Maury's desire to use science to analyze weather systems better and improve the lives of farmers and mariners. He depicted Maury seated in a chair, listening intently to a storm. Raised up behind him is a large globe surrounded by farmers and livestock in a storm and a scene of a shipwreck. The globe is detailed with wind currents that were actually mapped by Maury, and the base of the monument has reverse intaglio images of fresh and saltwater fishes. Sievers stated in later interviews that he felt that a man's ideas are bigger than he is, and that is why he used a large globe and a relatively small figure. The monument is in a well-kept traffic circle with a small iron fence surrounding it. The intersection is oddly shaped because Franklin Street forks off to the south of Monument nearby, and most of the nearby buildings were erected before the monument, so the monument has had little impact on the intersection around it.
3100 Block of Monument: This block has two different characters. On the south side of the street, the lots had been laid out and sold to correspond to Franklin Street, so when Monument Avenue was cut through in 1907, the lots met it at an angle. The houses in the western half of the block were not built until the 1920s, but the narrow lot size prohibited the owners from adjusting the placement of the house on the lot, so the houses also face Monument obliquely. The large apartment building on the eastern part of the block was built to fill the triangular lot completely. The north side of the block contrast with this density because the lots were sold in irregular sizes and the original owners of the lots signed an agreement to place permanent covenants on the deeds to provide deep thirty foot setbacks, and not to build apartments. The result is a blockface of generous, suburban-type houses, set back from the street. Houses on both sides of the street are built up on berms above the sidewalk.
The Lord Fairfax Apartments was the first building to be erected on the south side of the street. This 1923 design by Lindner and Phillips is a very urban, Beaux Arts structure, placed without any setback or greenspace on its triangular lot. Three entrance bays, stone window surrounds, a parapet, and a frieze ornament the handsome facade. In 1926 a series of nine cottages were built from number 3117 to 3133. These houses were designed by Carl Lindner with very similar massing and scale but a variety of styles. All but one are two-story with cross-gables. One has two shed dormers, making it two-and-a-half stories. Tudor, Mediterranean and colonial Revival styles are scattered down the row.
Two houses on West Franklin Street have been included in the district because they face the Maury Monument across a small traffic island, with no intervening buildings to block the view of them from Monument. They are both Colonial Revival.
Across the street six houses were built between 1922 and 1931. Two of these are built on narrower lots than the others, and they are the only ones that are not Colonial Revival. Number 3102 is Tudor Revival and number 3104 is Mediterranean. Both are handsome examples of the eclectic styles that appeared in the 1920s. The other four houses are spacious Colonial or Georgian Revival houses, and all were designed by Duncan Lee. Three of the four have side porches or sunrooms, which is an unusual feature on Monument Avenue, and which emphasizes the horizontality of their facades. Similar styles by the same architect give the block a great deal of unity, and the other two houses offer only enough variety to be interesting.
3200 Block of Monument: Again on this block, the houses on the north side of the street tend to be larger and sit on more generous lots. All but one house on the south side of the street were complete before construction began on the north side. The north side of the block has an array of nine houses with regular twenty foot setbacks, mostly with a suburban look to them, like those on the north side of the 3100 block. They were all erected between 1922 and 1928, and they exhibit the various revival styles favored for suburban houses in the 1920s. Of these, four are Colonial Revival, two are Tudor, two are Mediterranean, and one is Dutch Colonial with gambrel roof.
On the south side of the block is number 3201, the first house built on the block, and one of the most unusual on Monument Avenue. The architects, Carneal and Johnston, had a very difficult triangular lot with which to contend. Their solution, not unlike the Lord Fairfax Apartments, almost fills the lot. From Monument Avenue, there is no indication from the massive eighty foot long facade that the eastern half of the house is only about 8 feet deep, while the western half only gets as deep as thirty-five feet. A long porch is flanked on the facade by two pavilions, and various detailing like the balustrade, Ionic columns, and limestone lintels imply a Colonial Revival style. However, two parapeted gables add a touch of Tudor. The composition is as baffling as the lot must have seemed to the architects. The novelist James Branch Cabell lived in the house for more than a quarter of a century, while he chronicled Richmond society.
The other houses on the south side of the street are more modest and regular in their massing and sizes. A variety of styles fails to disrupt the continuity provided by a series of single-story porches. Three pairs of single-family houses were built between 1919 and 1923 by Davis Brothers, a respected firm that developed middle class housing throughout the Fan and West of the Boulevard neighborhoods, as well as some on Monument. Combinations of Colonial Revival and Craftsman detailing offer both variety and unity.
One last non-contributing house was built on the south side of the block in 1964. Its contemporary style made some effort to blend in with the rest of the block, by using brick and a similar scale. The architect was Frederick Hyland of Richmond.
3300 Block of Monument: This last full block within the historic district is even more suburban in feeling, with several houses that are wider than they are deep, and some with no porches or any kind of urban nod to the street. The houses are smaller and the lots are larger, much like a suburb. In fact, more of the houses on this block were built after 1930 than before. One lot, on the south side at the west end of the block, has never been built on.
The earliest house on the block at 3301 Monument was built in 1921. It is a classic, four-bay, brick Colonial Revival house with a side porch and three dormers. Several other houses built during the 1920s have Colonial Revival detail, or display common eclectic styles. A French Provincial type house at 3302 has a steeply pitched hipped roof. A Craftsman-influenced, Foursquare house, and a couple of Tudor Revivals round out the earlier houses on the block. Between 1940 and 1963 seven more two-story, brick Colonial Revival suburban houses were built, along with a few other buildings.
The Arthur Ashe Monument: Unveiled in July of 1996, the Arthur Ashe Monument rivals the Lee and Stuart monuments for controversy, although the time-frame for debate was much shorter. Paul DiPasquale proposed a monument in Richmond to honor Ashe in late 1992, and the sculpture was approved in the summer of 1995. DiPasquale depicted Ashe as the tennis player requested. He is standing with his arms raised, a tennis racquet in one and books in the other. Seated children surround him. The bronze sculpture is set on a granite pedestal with metal accents, on a traffic island in the middle of an intersection. Ashe faces west, the children east. There are only two blocks left of Monument before the street passes over a highway and the character becomes less urban, so the sculpture seems to greet those entering the city.
The Monument Avenue Historic District in Richmond, Virginia is nationally significant in the areas of architecture and community planning. Monument Avenue marches out from Richmond's old city limits for one and a half miles, a grand avenue laid out with a dual purpose. Proposed in 1887 to provide an appropriate setting for a major memorial to Robert E. Lee in the former capital of the Confederacy, the avenue was also intended to encourage residential development west of the growing city. The broad, tree-lined plan of the avenue inspired prominent Richmonders to erect a remarkably coherent collection of mansions and large townhouses representing a catalog of early twentieth century architectural styles. Although the avenue developed slowly and without consistent design covenants, great compatibility in materials, cornice and rooflines, orientation, and setback link the blocks together, making a singular statement. The western expanse of homes was matched by a series of commemorative, monumental public sculptures which, until recently, all focused on the Confederacy, making Monument Avenue the only monumental boulevard with a memorial program in the United States. This unique combination of community planning, commemoration and architecture makes Monument Avenue nationally significant.
In 1887, Southerners had settled on Richmond as a location for a major monument to Robert E. Lee. Speculation over the specific site ended when Governor Fitzhugh Lee, the general's nephew, indicated his preference for a proposed boulevard west of the city. The plan included a traffic circle at the major intersection for the placement of the monument. A row of trees would be planted down each side of the median. The site was agreed upon and the Lee Monument was unveiled in 1890. A series of four major Confederate memorials followed the erection of the Lee Monument over the next four decades, creating a quasi-religious precinct of the Lost Cause for the thousands who came to Richmond for Confederate reunions. Monuments to J. E. B. Stuart and Jefferson Davis were unveiled in 1907, followed by Stonewall Jackson in 1919, and finally Matthew Fontaine Maury in 1929. In 1996, Monument Avenue drew the nation's attention again as a monument to Arthur Ashe was unveiled.
The development of the area as a residential district followed roughly the same pattern, extending further and further west over the next several decades. Three large tracts of land were subdivided and gradually built upon. Though few houses are nationally significant as architectural specimens alone, the collection shows a remarkable pattern of high quality residences built with great respect for the context of those that came before and those that would follow. A regular rhythm occurred over the course of sixty years without an overall set of written building restrictions. Owners followed the lead of earlier builders, repeating enough of the setback, rooflines, building materials, and undulations to create a harmonious row without monotony. Their reliance on several architectural styles, and transitional or eclectic interpretations of those styles, provided continuity but plenty of material for elaborate detail. The city's elite built on the avenue, and though they worked within an unspoken framework, many houses were built to exhibit their owner's great wealth, success, and individuality. The houses represent most of the appropriately formal styles of the early twentieth century, including Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, Tudor Revival, Renaissance Revival, Beaux Arts, Mediterranean Revival, Georgian Revival, and Craftsman. Along with the houses, several churches, a hospital, and a school were built along Monument Avenue, continually reinforcing the avenue's prominence in the city's life.
The district's period of significance reaches from the plan of the avenue in 1890, the date of the erection of the Lee Monument, to 1940, the construction date of the last house on the avenue built before 1947. The unveiling of the Lee Monument, the first structure erected on the street, signifies the true beginning of Monument Avenue. Although the bulk of the houses in the nominated district were built by 1930, one contributing house was built in the last block in 1940. No houses were built between 1940 and 1947, and no exceptional buildings were built after 1947.
This nomination depends heavily on the large body of scholarly material that examines Monument Avenue. In 1991, The Monument Avenue centennial committee organized funding for an Historic American Buildings Survey of the neighborhood, and the resulting book is the most intensive study of Monument Avenue to date. Monument Avenue, History and Architecture is a thorough treatment of the avenue providing many new insights on a much-studied street. It provides an invaluable reference for anyone serious about studying Monument Avenue. Two theses compiled critical information about Monument Avenue before the HABS study. The first, printed privately in 1969, Changed Views and Unforeseen Prosperity: Richmond of 1890 Gets a Monument to Lee, was an insightful senior thesis by Jay Killian Bowman Williams. The second, by Carden C. McGehee, Jr., "The Planning, Sculpture, and Architecture of Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia," was a master's thesis that examined the significance Monument Avenue from a broader perspective. Two more recent publications have provided historical analysis of the avenue. One was an essay included in the Octagon's The Grand American Avenue, 1850-1920, edited by Jan Cigliano and Sarah Bradford Landau. The essay on Monument Avenue, contributed by Richard Guy Wilson, succinctly describes Monument Avenue as a distinctive example of the City Beautiful Movement. The most recent is a comprehensive book by Drew St. J. Carneal, Richmond's Fan District. Monument Avenue cannot be considered alone, since it developed concurrently with the neighboring Fan District.
The Beginnings of Monument Avenue
In 1886, while Richmonders quibbled over various locations that had been proposed for a monumental sculpture commemorating Robert E. Lee, a landowner named Otway S. Allen commissioned a plan for a grand avenue from one of the city's prominent engineers. Allen hoped that this boulevard would provide Richmond with more than just a site for the monument -- it would also be a showplace for Richmond's taste and wealth. The transition from the established, genteel neighborhood at the edge of the city limits to this new stretch of boulevard would announce Richmond's intentions of maintaining its role as the leading city of the South.
Since Lee's death in 1870, two groups had competed against each other to erect a major monument to Lee. Since it was to be the first great commemoration of the war by the Confederates, both groups had raised money across the South. Finally, in 1886, Governor Fitzhugh Lee, the general's nephew, managed to merge the two associations into one board under his leadership. A site on the east end of the city had been selected in 1882, and a competition had been held for a design. However in the spring of 1886, the Richmond Dispatch published a poll of prominent citizens discussing alternate sites. At the same time, the new committee headed by Fitz Lee reopened the discussion of the placement of the monument. In this 1886 Dispatch article, Otway Allen first proposed a location at the end of Franklin Street.
Allen and his relatives owned the land he mentioned, just outside the city limits and in line with Franklin Street, Richmond's most prestigious residential area. Franklin Street continued downtown past increasingly older, distinguished houses, and then eventually through a commercial area before reaching Capitol Square. Though it picked up again past the Capitol and was a fine address in the eastern end of the city as well, Franklin came to a visual end at the famed Washington Equestrian sculpture in Capitol Square. As the wealthy ventured further and further out from the city to build their mansions, Franklin Street had become quite an impressive address in the past few decades. Otway S. Allen and his brothers and sisters had inherited the land from their father, William C. Allen. A successful contractor who had worked his way up from bricklayer's apprentice, Allen's piecemeal purchases of land all over the city had resulted in a substantial inheritance for his heirs, including this fifty-eight acre parcel. When he first began piecing together this parcel, there were no houses nearby, but Franklin Street had long been one of Richmond's finer addresses, Allen was wise if he was assuming that its eventual extension would justify his investment.
Henrico County, adjacent to the city of Richmond, had been settled early in the seventeenth century. The land in the area just west of the city was used as farmland throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with scattered settlements along the well-traveled roads. Coal mines had opened further west around the turn of the nineteenth century, and access to Charlottesville and other western destinations was also necessary. The Old Westham Road was the earliest to accommodate western travel. By 1789, Coal-Pit Road opened to bring coal into the city. It joined Westham Road near the present-day intersection of Park and Davis avenues, just one block south of the future site of the Jefferson Davis Monument. One of the West End's settlements occurred here. Scuffletown Tavern was the heart of the neighborhood, which included a racetrack and several other buildings. In 1804 the General Assembly authorized a turnpike to be opened from Broad Street out to the coal fields and further west. Later, a new Westham Plank Road was built, reaching from Main Street in downtown Richmond, all the way to Goochland County, beyond Henrico.
During the nineteenth century several Richmonders built country houses in the area that was to become the neighborhood of Monument Avenue. Several of these, among them Columbia, Bellville, Talavera, and the Hermitage, were prominent in Richmond's social scene. The lands west of Richmond had originally been subdivided in 100-acre lots in William Byrd III's 1769 lottery. These lots were passed down in Richmond families, and were sometimes subdivided into smaller lots. During one of these subdivisions in 1816, a plat indicated a stretch of road in line with Franklin Street, but not connected to it. In 1817, in an ambitious land scheme, a suburb of Richmond was laid out by Jaquelin Harvie and two partners on land he had inherited. They named it Sydney and laid out 536 lots in a grid pattern. Many of the lots sold in the next two years. Unfortunately, the Panic of 1819 ruined their plans. Though little development occurred in the next two decades, lots had been sold and the streets had been laid out. Gradually, over the next century Sydney developed as it had been planned by Harvie and his partners.
A reservoir for the city was built south of Sydney, and a road connected it to Broad Street by 1883. A park was developed around the reservoir, and it became a popular recreational destination. In 1884 the Robert E. Lee Camp, a settlement for disabled Confederate veterans, opened on that road, known variously as Clover Street, Reservoir Road, and finally, the Boulevard. The area just north of Sydney, where Monument Avenue eventually was laid out, was not developed until mid-century.
Franklin Street did not extend past Belvedere, the edge of downtown, until the 1850s. It stopped altogether at Richmond College at Lombardy, the edge of Allen's property. Water and sewer lines were not laid past Belvedere until the 1880s.
The Allen family's land was along the western edge of the city limits, just north of Sydney and south of Broad Street. Colonel Allen, approached C. P. E. Burgwyn, one of the city's notable engineers, about a plan for the parcel. Collinson Pierrepont Edward Burgwyn had family ties in New England, but he was raised in North Carolina and Virginia. After graduation from Harvard, he rejoined his family in Richmond and began a prolific career. Among his other projects, he designed a westward extension of Hollywood Cemetery that was sensitive to John Notman's original 1849 plan, and he supervised the hanging of the first telephone lines in Richmond. He was an advocate of utilizing the James River to expand industry in Richmond, and consulted with and invested in businesses that concentrated on developing the waterfront. He was also the consulting engineer to the Lee Monument Association, which would have given him an edge for the job of laying out the avenue, but his education and experience certainly supported his selection.
Burgwyn's residency in Boston and his background as an engineer assure a familiarity with Commonwealth Avenue, a broad residential boulevard that was the centerpiece of the Back Bay. Commonwealth Avenue's visual consistency and open spaces dominate the elegant neighborhood that had been built on landfill. Commonwealth Avenue was not the only boulevard familiar to nineteenth century Richmonders, though. In the first recorded comment about the idea of expanding Franklin Street into a new boulevard, Otway Allen was quoted in the March 28, 1886 Richmond Dispatch suggesting that there could be a street in Richmond not unlike Monument Place in Baltimore. These two avenues represented ideas in American city planning that were soon to crystallize as the City Beautiful Movement.
Grand avenues evolved from several sources, and examples are explored in the book The Grand American Avenue: 1850-1920. In their introduction, the editors analyze the American interpretation of the grand avenue, and Monument Avenue fits into many of the concepts. The impulse for American grand avenues "arose out of democratic ideals about commerce, culture, and community building." Cities were growing rapidly and residential neighborhoods were spreading in many directions. At the same time, European avenues, such as those planned by Baron Haussmann in Paris, showed the benefits of a grand avenue providing a commercial and ceremonial artery, cutting a swath through the dense infill of ancient cities. Even in America, density was becoming uncomfortable in inner cities, but there was room to expand outward.
With improved transportation and amenities spreading further from the central city, wealthier residents were seeking the fresh air and less congested settings of the outskirts of cities. Romantic ideas about architecture and landscaping encouraged citizens of suburbs to plan park-like stretches of greenery, punctuated by complementary houses. Civic-minded developers planned green spaces for dwellers in more urban areas, too. Often, as in Richmond, the avenue was a natural extension of an earlier street, but the character of the space changed dramatically. In America, these park-like streets, broader than others and perhaps sited for a vista, became the most prestigious place to build, enticing old wealth and new to proclaim their social and economic achievements.
Richmond's commercial and industrial evolution influenced the way it responded to the emerging City Beautiful Movement. In many ways Richmond was still one of the leading cities of the South during the 1880s. Richmond's location on the falls of the James River had always nourished commerce and industry, particularly tobacco manufacturing and processing, ironmaking, and flour milling. With the end of slavery and the growth of industry after the Civil War, Southern business leaders realized that their agricultural economy would not serve the region well in the coming decades. After Reconstruction, Richmond's industrial skills helped the city survive, but the emergence of a strong retail and service sector in the city's economy changed the makeup of the city's economy. Banking, insurance, and government, combined with small manufacturers, merchants, realtors and professionals were building a new business environment in Richmond. Although other Southern cities had recovered from the war more quickly and would continue to surpass Richmond's growth over the next few decades, Richmond still grew steadily and adapted its economic and power structure to fit the times. This evolving business community was trying to build a Richmond that could compete economically with cities across the country. They wanted businessmen across the country to think of Richmond as the Capital of the New South, rather than the Capital of the Confederacy. They were also looking for ways to express this in the physical environment of Richmond.
Richmond's Confederate past was steering the city into a role in another national movement -- the American Renaissance. Since the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, Americans had been reexamining their past. This wide-ranging exploration inspired new, often romanticized, interpretations of the nation's history, art, and architecture. An idealized view of America's history was having an impact on the memories of the terrible, destructive war that had ripped the nation apart. A generation had passed, and scars were healing. Richmonders were still clinging to their Confederate history and allegiance, but their memories were mellowing. The cult of the "Lost Cause" was developing, and its focus was the heroes of the Confederacy. The drive to memorialize Lee had finally synthesized at the same time city leaders were trying to restructure Richmond both economically and physically. The idea of christening a progressive civic project with a monument to the past did not seem contradictory.
So, when a grand avenue as a setting for the Lee Monument was proposed, it appealed to many different desires and goals. A grand avenue could provide a showcase of residences for the wealthy merchants and professionals of Richmond's changing community, lay out a modern civic centerpiece for the Richmond of the New South, and combine forces with the evolving movement to express pride in the "Lost Cause."
Richmonders debated the choice of sculptor and location into the next year. On June 19, 1887, the Dispatch reported that the choice of the site was down to Gamble's Hill or the Allen lot, as the Allen family's property was known. The deed, dated July 14, 1887, acknowledged that the association accepted the circular plot of land for the monument from the Allen heirs. Two boulevards 140' wide intersecting at the sculpture site were also dedicated in the deed.
The survey by Burgwyn filed with the deed was the first illustration of the Allen heirs' plans. The boulevard extending from the end of Franklin Street at Lombardy crosses the city limits almost immediately and is labeled "Monumen Ave."(sic). The boulevard curves around the intersection at the only cross-street, another 140' wide street marked "Allen Ave." The circle set aside for the statue is 200' in diameter. No lots are laid out nor are medians indicated.
Controversy over the choice of the Allen lot simmered throughout the summer and into the fall. Voices were raised about the isolated location, the expenditure of city funds to lay out and pave new streets when other locations were already available, and the commercialism inherent in using the memorial to encourage residential development. Many across the South felt that the far-flung location showed a lack of respect for such a revered monument, and amounted to an insult to those who had donated to the project.
Also during the summer of 1887, Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercie was consulting with the board about their desires for the sculpture. Mercie, a world-renowned French sculptor, had entered the 1886 competition. Though his model won an honorable mention, it was considered too martial to accurately represent Lee. His fame and prestige, as well as the excellence of the model, attracted the board to him, however. Mercie had attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and been awarded the Prix de Rome. He had been awarded the highest honor at the 1878 Paris exposition, and would win it again in 1889. He had studied with Augustus Saint-Gaudens and had instructed Daniel Chester French. To hire a sculptor of such obvious skills and fame would bestow a certain weight and importance to the monument. Mercie proved very agreeable to the board's suggestions, and his final model was sent to Richmond for approval during the summer of 1887. He was commissioned to sculpt the monument in October.
The cornerstone for the monument was laid October 27, 1887. Though this did not end the debate on its location, work began on the planning of Monument Avenue. During the next three years the plan of the avenue was adjusted and laid out. The Allen's land stretched from Lombardy west to what would become Allison Street, three blocks away. On the north, it reached two blocks to Broad Street and on the south only one block to Park Avenue. By 1888 a plat by the firm Bates and Bolton showed the lots, medians, landscaping, and even had an image of the Lee Monument placed within the circle. It is generally agreed that Burgwyn was the author of the plan, working very closely with the Allen heirs. The plat shows that the eastern corners of Lombardy and Monument were rounded off to reflect the beginning of the new avenue. Medians 44' wide were included on both Monument and Allen avenues. They were to be planted with a double row of trees, and perhaps smaller trees or shrubs down the center. Another street was laid out beyond Allen, and named Meadow. It was 50' wide, and had no medians. The western-most border of the Allen property was marked "Proposed Street". Any westward continuation of the street beyond the Allen property was to be only 100' wide. The house lots on Monument Avenue were laid out 30' wide and 150' deep, the same as most lots in the neighboring Fan District and on Franklin Street. At the intersections with the rounded corners, the lots were cut like a fan, in pie-shaped wedges. These lots accentuated the centerpiece of the intersection and the important civic function of the avenue.
In May of 1890, Mercie's sculpture finally arrived by train in Richmond in four enormous crates. On May 7, the day that had been set aside to haul the statue's parts to the site, a crowd estimated at twenty thousand came to help. As evidence of their enthusiasm, the citizens of Richmond would pull it to the site themselves. Beginning with about one hundred yards of rope for each of the four wagons, and then with the addition of another 300 feet of rope, they hauled the sculpture through town. The ropes were cut into segments and taken home as souvenirs.
The dedication ceremony on May 29, part of a Confederate Reunion, was attended by a crowd estimated at between 100,000 and 150,000 -- more than the entire population of Richmond. About 25,000 people marched in the parade, which was four miles long. General Joseph Johnston pulled the veil from the statue, and Archer Anderson the president of Tredegar Iron Works spoke. In his speech, he praised the sentiment that raised a statue to memorialize an honorable man. His conclusion reiterated the evolving view of Lee as a hero of noble character.
Let this monument, then, teach to generations yet unborn these lessons of his life! Let it stand, not a record of civil strife, but as a perpetual protest against whatever is low and sordid in our public and private objects! Let it stand as a memorial of personal honor that never brooked a stain. .. Let it stand as a great public act of thanksgiving and praise, for that it pleased Almighty God to bestow upon these Southern States a man so formed to reflect His attributes of power, majesty, and goodness!
A precedent had been set to honor brave and good men. Monument Avenue was never officially or publicly designated a precinct of memorials to the Confederacy. There were memorials to heroes erected on Monument Avenue and all over the country during the City Beautiful Movement. The difference is that the heroes on the minds of Richmonders at that time were Confederate, and the heroes that they would choose to honor in the next four decades would also be Confederate. This memorial program to venerate heroes would set Monument Avenue apart from that of other grand avenues with sculpture. The consistent quality of the sculpture, the landscape and the architecture of Monument Avenue would strengthen that difference. The South had filled a need to commemorate an indelible epoch, and they had created an important new space in the process.
Even after the unveiling, not everyone approved of the sculpture or the location. Although most national publications that covered the event were conciliatory, the brave African-American newspaper editor, John Mitchell, Jr., who owned Richmond's Planet, wrote an editorial objecting to the hoopla over the Lee Monument. He carefully sidestepped mentioning any racial objections that he may have had, but he lamented the "legacy of treason and blood" that honoring the Confederacy would pass down. He also criticized the city's participation and financial investment in the development of private residential land. Most of the newspapers, in both the North and the South, that reported on the festivities had favorable comments about the crowds, the program, and the sculpture. However exciting the unveiling, and no matter how many admired Mercie's skills, there was still some doubt about the setting. Many visitors registered concern about the location, not just in 1890, but for more than a decade. When Henry James toured Richmond in the spring of 1903, he reported that the statue of Lee was like "some precious pearl of ocean, washed up on a rude, bare strand."
In 1892 the city of Richmond annexed the land west of Lombardy to the Boulevard. A contract to grade Monument and Allen avenues was signed just before the Panic of 1893 extinguished hopes of further action toward domesticating the avenue. Richmond's economy was hit hard by the depression of the 1890s, and did not recover until the turn of the century. By then, Monument Avenue had sat for most of a decade without buildings. Richmond's role as the shrine of the Confederacy had been clinched by the erection of the Lee Monument, and with the mid-1890s opening of the Museum of the Confederacy at the former White House of the Confederacy. The progressive vision had not died out among business-minded Richmonders, but several other Southern cities had continued to develop, and Richmond was losing the economic race to become the leading city of the New South. In Michael Chesson's book, Richmond After the War, 1865-1890, he comments,
"A passion for the Lost Cause became the vogue for white residents, who ... convinced themselves that they were both loyal Americans and steadfast rebels as they worshiped at Confederate shrines. By the 1890s, tradition, sentimentality, racism, and the collective weight of the past had eclipsed the progressive vision and the decline was complete. Richmond became what it remained for decades: the old city of the New south."
The depression forced the city to concentrate its resources in areas that were already inhabited. In 1898 the newspaper reported such neglect around the monument that veterans from the Soldiers' Home volunteered to keep the grass trimmed. Although Henry James was exaggerating the remoteness of the "rude, bare strand" in 1903, it had not been long that the sculpture had neighbors.
In 1901, with the country's financial problems finally past and a still-growing population, the first house was built on Monument Avenue, eleven years after the unveiling of the Lee Monument. The city also installed utilities along both the street and alleys, and curbed and guttered Monument as far as Meadow. Of 134 building lots available on Monument Avenue at that time, 84 had been sold. Scarlet and sugar maples were planted in 1904, not only the planned double row on the median, but also along the new sidewalks on the opposite sides of the street. This allee, which eventually was extended down the entire historic section of Monument, adds tremendously to the visual continuity of the street. Curbs were laid at the outside edge of the sidewalk to contain the berms where the sidewalk was cut in. Although the grand projections of Allen and Burgwyn were far in the future, Monument Avenue was finally taking shape.
The first house built on Monument Avenue, number 1601, was demolished to make room for a parking garage in 1978. Though the details of the house were classical, its mix of materials and massing were distinctly Queen Anne, with a two-story bay balanced by a steeply pitched gable on the third floor. This transitional style predicted the change that would soon occur in Richmond architecture, with classical revival styles replacing Victorian. By 1910 seven houses had been erected on the north side of the 1600 block, implying that there was a lot of construction activity when Henry James came to visit. The first four to be built, 1616, 1620, 1626, and 1634, were developed as speculative houses by W. J. Payne, a local builder. They are also Queen Anne in composition, with a mix of Romanesque and Colonial details. Their construction at the same time but not on adjacent lots illustrates a trend on Monument Avenue. Builders frequently built houses simultaneously, but not on adjoining lots. This encouraged the sale and development of the intermediate lots. It also served stylistically to pull the facades on a block together for a more integrated composition. The speculators that bought these lots tended to be businessmen who saw Richmond's future in Monument Avenue. They were not usually professionals in 'the real estate industry, but men with capital who simply thought that lots and houses on Monument would be a good investment.
The first few houses were mostly side-hall townhouses, built in the three eastern-most blocks of the avenue. Stylistically, they retain the most Victorian detail on Monument, predominately Queen Anne and Romanesque. However, since the first three blocks were developed over the course of two decades, there is not a clear break between Victorian and the later Colonial Revival styles which are mixed in. The lots sold by the Allen heirs dictated tall, narrow houses, and the houses built show both variety and restraint in their designs. Most of the townhouses were like those that were being built in the Fan District nearby, but on a larger scale. The houses on Monument, though they were conservative in style, were lavish in many details on the facades. It became clear that the house on Monument Avenue were meant to contribute to the evolving character of the street, but that each owner was hoping that his or her house would stand out as the most elegant and tasteful. The architectural detail usually appeared only on the front of the building, leaving the sides and rear relatively simple.
Not until 1911 did Otway Allen and his wife commission John Kevan Peebles to design a Colonial Revival house at 1631 Monument. Its bowed bay, triple window, parapet and restrained fanlight recall the influence of Boston's Federal style on Richmond in the early nineteenth century. Allen died that year before the house was completed, having never lived on the street he helped to create.
As early as 1902 a house was built that distinguished itself from the others in scale and proportion, and the authors of the HABS study refer to the Harwood House as the first mansion built on the avenue. The Harwood House, whose detailing is classical but not yet Colonial, is more horizontal, boxier, than the townhouses constructed the year before. It does not stand alone as gracefully as the later Colonial Revival mansions that appeared further west, but it clearly is not a townhouse that needs a neighbor for visual support. The acceptance of the Colonial Revival style seems to have encouraged wider lots and more horizontal houses. Some were built in other styles, but two-bay Colonial Revival houses became fairly common after the style was adapted to the somewhat narrow lot sizes dictated by economy. Though symmetry is an integral part of Colonial Revival design, to construct a house with three bays on the most expensive street in town was prohibitively expensive. Eventually, two-bay Colonial Revival houses became common, in the style of townhouses that are often referred to as "two-thirds Georgian."
The variety of building types erected in the first few blocks of Monument seem to contradict the cohesiveness of the street, but not all these buildings were constructed in the early years of development. In the first block alone are single-family dwellings, two churches, an apartment building, and a school. However, the consistency of the set-back, cornice line and the quality of the architectural designs within the Allen Addition provide an inescapable rhythm that is only gradually altered down the rest of the avenue. This rhythm has more to do with the owners' desire to conform than with any building restrictions. The building code in Richmond was concerned mainly with fire safety, and so guidelines restricted only the building materials
The original deeds required only a setback of twenty feet from the street, with allowances of five feet for a bay. After a few years, restrictions were added to many deeds within the Allen Addition that included clauses that no African-Americans could own or rent (though they could live on Monument Avenue as servants in a house), only private single-family residences could be built, a five-foot setback had to be set aside on at least one side of each house, and that all construction had to be brick or stone. These clauses were to last for twenty-five years, though apartment buildings began to appear on the avenue before that time period was up.
The Fan District and Grace Street, on the south and north sides of Monument Avenue, were being developed at the same time. The scale of Monument Avenue was larger, and therefore too expensive and more intimidating for many. As a result, Monument Avenue was developing more slowly, and it was a showcase for builders and designers. A much higher ratio of houses on Monument Avenue were designed by architects than those in the Fan or on Grace, indicating that the owners were not going to take lightly this opportunity to express themselves.
The families that owned houses on Monument Avenue were generally well-off, often professionals, only sometimes old Richmond families, and always white. The neighborhood was new, and it was immediately elite and stylish. Those initially attracted to it tended to be leaders in professional and managerial positions, merchants, lawyers, and physicians. Retailers were also prospering in the increasingly service-oriented economy of the New South. The HABS study pointed out that the new business elite were more likely to choose Monument Avenue than the families whose names were prominent earlier in Richmond's history. Many of the families who built here were related either through blood or marriage. Residents on Monument Avenue were also politically active, serving on the Chamber of Commerce and City Council. Each prominent club, whether socially or service-oriented, was represented by several members. Some renters lived on Monument in the early years, often boarding within a household, and they were not necessarily as well-positioned socially. Some businesses Were particularly well-represented and, not surprisingly, construction was one of them. Several building suppliers, contractors, and developers lived on Monument, especially in the early decades. Their houses were often showcases for their work on a well-traveled, much-discussed street.
Institutions were choosing to locate on Monument Avenue as well. Stuart Circle Hospital was built in 1913, and expanded in 1920. By 1930 it was the largest privately owned hospital in Richmond, and its continued success has led its administrators to increase the building's size several times since then. Its proximity could have encouraged some doctors to live on Monument, and a few included their offices on the first floor of their residence. These were almost always disguised well by their architects to blend in with the residential character of the street. Later, in 1950-51, a large medical building was erected on a vacant lot on Lee Circle. It is Colonial Revival in style, but its massive size prevents it from blending into the streetscape very well.
Six Protestant congregations built churches on Monument Avenue. Since their members were choosing to move further and further from the central city, they needed to locate nearby. Churches were also anxious to erect handsome structures that would add to the prominence of the new neighborhood. In fact, Reverend John Scherer, the pastor of First English Evangelical Lutheran Church built in 1910, solicited funds from his parishioners to build "a Lutheran church as fine as any the Baptists, Methodists and Episcopalians had," in the "most progressive and prosperous section of new Richmond." Other churches were built by Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians, Christian Scientists, and another Lutheran congregation. All of them are fine examples of Gothic or Neoclassical styles built between 1910 and 1931. First Baptist Church built on a prominent lot at the southeast corner of the Boulevard and Monument, filling a full block with various additions and a parking lot over the years. Only one school located on Monument. Collegiate School for Girls, a private school that had been started in a house on West Franklin Street across from Richmond College in 1915, built a new school building at 1619 Monument Avenue in 1918. The school fit right into the neighborhood, resembling a large Colonial Revival house, but it was well-equipped for its role as a school with a lunch room in the basement, classrooms above, and on the roof a basketball court that served as a gymnasium! This building has been demolished, but a second building constructed by the school at 1617 Monument is now being used for doctor's offices.
The Avenue is Extended: Allison to the Boulevard
The second major tract of land to be developed, the five blocks between the Allen addition and the Boulevard, was owned by several groups, among whom there was no coordination in the planning of subdivisions or sales. Some of these blocks were cut up in regular 30' x 150' lots, but not everyone chose to break up their holdings at the same time. Also, a non-contiguous extension of West Franklin Street had existed near the Boulevard since 1816 when John Mayo sold some lots, so the avenue was not laid out on a blank slate west of Allison. The street was called West Franklin even after the intervening Monument Avenue was laid out. In 1906 city council extended the name Monument Avenue west to the new city limits at Roseneath Road. The early nineteenth century development and the varied owners could have made a significant difference in the character of Monument Avenue past Allison, and the urban density does give way to wider and more horizontal, suburban-type houses. However, the relatively regular visual devices and materials provide a feeling of consistency even as the scale changes.
John Patteson Branch was one of the major property owners between Allison and the Boulevard. Branch was the president of Merchants National Bank, one of the largest banks in the South, and was very influential in Richmond. He purchased property in this neighborhood early in the 1880s, and continued to expand his holdings. In 1889, before the city annexed the area, he petitioned Henrico County to change the orientation of surrounding streets to reflect the continuation of Franklin, Grace and Broad streets, rather than the grid of Sydney, which had been laid out at a different angle. The county allowed it, agreeing :hat it would be a convenience in the future, but chose not to improve the streets, knowing they were soon to be annexed by the city. Branch proceeded to subdivide and sell off lots near the intersection of Broad Street and the Boulevard days after the unveiling of the Lee Monument. He sold off other properties during the next two decades, but he saved some of his property on the south side of Monument for one of his daughters and a son to build on. His son, John Kerr Branch, did eventually build a grand mansion, enormous by anyone's standards, at the corner of Davis and Monument in 1917. This Tudor Revival manor was designed by the nationally known architect John Russell Pope, who was also designing Broad Street Station only two blocks away.
A major part of the north side of Monument west of the Allen Addition and east of the Boulevard was subdivided after the intersection of Cedar and Monument was selected for the Jefferson Davis Monument in 1903. The land had been purchased in 1886 by James W. Allison and Edmund B. Addison, partners in a fertilizer firm. They used generally uniform-sized lots, and confirmed the already mapped extension of Grace Street, between Monument and Broad.
The houses built west of the Allen Addition near Allison were generally larger and more horizontal in scale. As the authors of the HABS study point out that this is due to several factors. The lots were sold off in varied sizes by several groups at different times, with fewer restrictions on the deeds. Architectural fashion had changed, and with the emergence of Colonial Revival came a more horizontal proportion. Also, previous builders on Monument Avenue had secured its place in the social and economic strata of Richmond. New owners were more sure of their investment, and had a certain obligation to maintain the stylish pattern of the street.
Robert Winthrop, a Virginia architect and student of Monument Avenue, frequently notes the tendency of both architects and builders to try to out-design their rivals in the Monument Avenue showcase houses that were viewed as the best of their work. Although Richmond's conservative taste held most designers to respect the scale of the surrounding neighborhood, the individual ornament on the facades of the houses had sometimes been downright ostentatious. In this area of the street, two architectural changes are noticeable. The first Is that townhouses become a minority and free-standing mansions of varying scale rake over. The Jaquelin Taylor House at 2325 Monument Avenue and the Branch House at 2501 are two large examples. The second major change is that by the 1920s, when many houses in this area were being built, the desire to dress a facade with competing architectural fragments gave way to more subdued, academic revival styles. The correct proportions and subtle ornament of William Lawrence Bottomley and Duncan Lee's designs provided the avenue with many of its most elegant houses. In a prime example of specific architectural references, both Bottomley and Baskervill and Lambert designed houses on Monument that were based on Mompesson House in Salisbury, England. The Georgian Revival was refined on Monument Avenue, with accurate detail imposed upon gracious, modern floor plans. Houses based on Mediterranean tradition became more specific as well. Instead of just a tile roof and stucco walls, they quoted from the Italian Renaissance with balustrades and interior courtyards.
Since the lots east of the Boulevard had more restrictions placed on the, owners, and they tended to be developed sooner than those further west, the apartment buildings in this area tend to be less similar. When apartments became very popular in Richmond, after about 1920, standard apartment plans began to be constructed all over the Fan District and on Monument. Before that, fewer apartments meant more individuality. For instance, two very unusual apartment buildings appear in the 2200 block of Monument, between Allison and Strawberry streets. The earlier, the Brooke Apartments, built in 1912 at 2215, has a flat facade with a rusticated first floor that implies a piano nobile, a balustrade along the roofline, and a very formal overall appearance. Since it is one of the earliest apartment building erected on Monument, the designers, Carneal and Johnston, probably felt an obligation to set a precedent of urbane elegance for future multiple-family residences on the avenue. The other, Rixey Court, was not built until 1924 at 2235, but its luxurious interior is clearly communicated on its lively, Baroque facade. Several apartments had been constructed between 1912 and 1924, but Bascom Rowlett, the architect of Rixey Court, designed a very creative solution rather than following the lead of apartment buildings further west.
By late 1904 tho more monuments had been planned for the new avenue. The intersection of Lombardy and Monument was designated as the site of a monument to General J. E. B. Stuart. Though plans were first discussed publicly in 1875, a competition was not held until 1903. Fitzhugh Lee again chaired the selection committee. Frederick Moynihan, a sculptor from New York, won the competition. Moynihan had worked as a studio assistant for the local sculptor Edward Virginius Valentine, who was a member of the committee. The location chosen in 1904 at the eastern end of Monument Avenue was selected because Stuart had died in a house nearby, and the church from which he was buried was even closer. Stuart was also portrayed in the saddle, and his heroic reputation and flamboyant dress were expressed in his baroque, twisting pose and in the spirited stance of his horse.
At the same time a monument for Jefferson Davis was planned for the intersection of Monument Avenue and Cedar Street. After the usual controversy, the site was chosen because of the location near the Star Fort, a section of the Confederate line of defense during the long siege of Richmond. This more obscure justification indicates the prominence of Monument Avenue in the minds of those dedicated to memorializing the Lost Cause. Cedar was widened to make room for a circle in the intersection and renamed for Davis. Monument was widened to the Boulevard at this point, and at least one of the landowners donated the 30' from the front of his lots, knowing he stood to profit by the expansion of the street.
After competitions and disputes that rival those that preceded the Lee Monument, local sculptor Edward V. Valentine was selected to portray Davis, and William C. Noland, another Richmonder, to design the setting. Valentine had sculpted many Confederate heroes already, including the famous Recumbent Lee at the general's tomb at Washington and Lee College in Lexington. Both a prominent, well-educated sculptor and a favorite of locals, Valentine was a popular choice. Davis is characterized as an orator, framed by Noland's Classical exedra. The figure of Davis is almost lost in the forest of thirteen columns representing the Confederate states, and overwhelmed by an enormous, sixty-foot tall Doric column capped by the allegorical figure of Vindicatrix, the Spirit of the South.
The planning of these two monuments continued to attract visitors and attention to the neighborhood. Although Monument Avenue was not very settled yet, enough progress had been made by 1904 that there were no objections to the sculptures being placed in the hinterlands. Other monuments had been erected in Richmond between Lee and Stuart, and they too had served to enrich the cult of the Lost Cause, replacing the memories of the gruesome reality of war with a sentimental yearning for brave and noble heroes of old. Monument Avenue's increasingly bright, new setting, provided a proud, almost cheerful locale for veneration. The dual unveilings at the 1907 Confederate Reunion were certainly a celebration.
The unveiling of the Stuart Monument opened the annual Confederate Reunion on May 30, 1907. An even larger celebration than that of the Lee unveiling, and the largest reunion ever, 18,000 of the attendees were veterans and their sons who camped out for the week. The ninety-ninth birthday of Jefferson Davis provided the occasion for the unveiling of his monument on June 3. Crowds were estimated anywhere between 80,000 and 200,000, and the statue was unveiled by Davis' only surviving child Winnie Davis Hayes and her two sons. A two-hour parade led to Monument Avenue that day. Balls and fairs scattered throughout the week provided an endless display of Confederate celebrities. The robust Lost Cause ideology certainly enhanced the size of the crowds at the 1907 reunion, but it should be noted that Virginia was quite a tourist destination that year. Many of those in attendance also took advantage of inexpensive cruises down the James to the Jamestown Exposition celebrating the tercentenary of the landing at Jamestown, which had opened a month before.
In 1908, the year after the Stuart and Davis unveilings, the city again contracted for the paving of the avenue with asphalt block from Lombardy to Allison streets. The alleys were also to be graded and paved. Cedar Street was renamed Davis and widened in 1908. Houses built on the blocks adjacent to the monument followed the unveilings much more rapidly than those near Lee Circle, probably because services were more available to the new residents, and others had already taken the risks out of building on the new street.
West of the Boulevard
Paving reached the Boulevard by 1915, in time to lay another cornerstone. This monument was to commemorate Thomas Jonathan ("Stonewall") Jackson, and the sculpture was commissioned in 1917. The lack of conflict noted in contemporary newspapers about the site and choice of sculptor may be due to the fact that it had been fifty years since the end of the Civil War. Although feelings about the Lost Cause still ran deep, two generations had passed and there were fewer people with vivid personal memories of the war and its heroes. Before the statue was unveiled on October 11, 1919 an influenza epidemic had killed 400,000 Americans in 1918, and World War I had begun, further distancing Richmonders from their memories of Jackson.
The sculptor Frederick William Sievers, was not a Virginian, but had worked on smaller Confederate commissions for courthouse squares and had sculpted the Virginia Monument at Gettysburg. He depicted Jackson in bronze, seated on his horse, calmly looking out over the Boulevard. In a 1960 article about his work, Sievers related an interesting story about the placement of the monument. Among the myths surrounding heroes of the Confederacy, and consequently Monument Avenue, is one that involves the orientation of the statues. Supposedly, if the soldier returned from war, the statue faces south. If the soldier died in battle, the statue faces north. The legend becomes more involved when dealing with equestrian sculpture. The number of feet the horse has planted on the ground is linked with such subsets as those who died later from wounds received in battle, and those who expired on the field. Sievers destroys this convoluted folklore by recalling in a 1960 interview with Virginia Cavalcade that he had wanted Jackson to face south because that is the direction from which most viewers would approach the monument. The statue faces north, however, and the reason is perhaps the source of the legend. Sievers also recalled that General Anderson, the head of the Jackson monument committee, insisted that Jackson face north because, "Stonewall would never turn his back on a Yankee."
The lots west of the Boulevard as far as Roseneath were sold off by the heirs of John F. Sheppard, and by the Lee Annex Realty Corporation, a residential development firm. Sheppard, a doctor and businessman from Buckingham County never married and may never have lived in Richmond, though his brother raised his family in Henrico County. Sheppard acquired a large parcel with James Dooley and some more on his own or with his brother. On his death in 1879, Sheppard left his property to his brother Nicholas's three children.
In 1883 the Boulevard had been cut through to Broad Street, connecting the Reservoir Park (now Byrd Park) with Broad Street, and crossing the extension of Franklin Street that would soon become Monument Avenue. The Boulevard was widened to become a major artery, a 110' wide street with a median. By 1889 the Sheppards began subdividing, but unlike the eastern sections of Monument Avenue, they dictated few restrictions on the property. They sold off the land piecemeal, in chunks that included land to the north and south of Monument, and their parcel was not completely laid out until 1921. The Sheppards cooperated with the city in laying out the streets and alleys and they sold off their land as the city grew towards them, but imposed no vision or plan on Monument Avenue. Unlike the Branches and the Allens, they never built houses on Monument, staying most of their lives in a house on Roseneath near the present intersection with Grace Street. When Grace Street cut through and their house was demolished, they moved to an apartment on Kensington Avenue.
The Lee Annex Corporation bought some land bordering the Sheppards on the south side of Monument, and retained a 1903 plan that had been proposed by the previous owners, the Roseneath Land Corporation. The restrictions placed on the lots on their property were more modest than those east of the Boulevard, and the houses reflect this. The city had annexed as far as Roseneath, six irregular blocks west of the Boulevard, in 1906. The land for Monument was acquired, graded, and opened in 1909. The blocks west of the Boulevard, controlled by the Sheppards and the Lee Annex Realty Corporation, were originally laid out on a grid that reflected the grid of Sydney, at an angle to the grid for Monument Avenue. The irregularities were not all resolved before the area was laid out, so several angled streets and lots reflect a different orientation.
The first three blocks of the Sheppard Addition were dominated by large apartment buildings. Generous porches and heavy columns define the voids that front the avenue. The apartments, which changed the entire scale and pattern of Monument, appeared in these blocks because of the lack of restrictions imposed by the Sheppards on the lots they sold. Many Americans were moving into apartments in the 1920s, and Monument Avenue was providing a significant alternative for the middle class. The apartments built in these blocks were usually built by real estate developers who were designing and building 6-unit buildings all over the Fan District and the West of the Boulevard area. Some of the larger buildings are set back in a U-shape, with a landscaped court in the middle.
The next blocks are dominated by single-family houses, but the north side of the street was bound in a mutual agreement by landowners in 1922 to respect a 30' setback and to build only single-family dwellings. These houses, especially in the first block built, appear to be luxurious, suburban mansions, different from any thus far on the avenue. The south side of the street was dominated by more modest homes developed by speculators and contractors who had built many houses in the Fan District.
In 1922 the cornerstone was laid for the last major Confederate statue constructed on Monument Avenue. Located at the corner of Belmont and Monument, the statue depicts Matthew Fontaine Maury-- perhaps the only hero on the avenue who needs an introduction. Maury served in the Confederate Navy, and is known for his wartime experiments that resulted in the invention of the torpedo. Maury is known locally as a Confederate because his experiments occurred in the basement of a house in downtown Richmond, but he was a scientist, not a major military leader and did not achieve the fame of Lee and Jackson. In the 18505, though, Maury had been superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory and Hydrographical Office, and while there helped to establish the science of oceanography. His writings about the ocean inspired the founding of the Naval Academy, and his work with meteorology was the beginning of the Weather Bureau. He is known, as inscribed on the base of the monument, as the "Pathfinder of the Seas."
In 1906 a Richmonder visiting a maritime museum in Hamburg, Germany noticed Maury's name prominently displayed. When he returned home, he started a letter-writing campaign to the newspaper to cultivate interest in recognition for him in his home state, with the focus always on his scientific achievements. It was years before a group was formed to support the concept, and even longer before the money was raised, but there was as little controversy as there was momentum. William Sievers, the sculptor of the Jackson monument at the Boulevard, saw a pamphlet published by the fund-raising committee and was inspired to make a model for a sculpture based on a quote from it: "The voice of the wind and the voice of the waters were music to his ears." The committee approved the sculpture without a competition, and on November 11, 1929 the Maury sculpture was unveiled.
Maury is depicted in bronze, seated in front of a globe. He appears to be calm, but seems to be listening intently and thinking. The globe is encircled by two groups, one a farm family fleeing a storm with their livestock, and the other a shipwrecked group. Sievers was representing Maury's motivation for his studies -- he wanted to improve the lives of mariners, farmers, and others whose lives and livelihoods depended on their ability to understand the weather. Accurately depicted sea lanes and calms mapped by Maury appear on Siever's globe. Sievers felt that a man's ideas are probably bigger than he is, and he shows this literally in the large globe behind Maury.
The city annexed land from Henrico County as far west as Horse Pen Road in 1914, and in 1915 City Council approved the condemnation of land for the extension of Monument Avenue out to that point, which is still its westernmost point. The city reimbursed Whitmell S. Forbes, a major property owner between Roseneath and Hamilton, for his land, but most of the other landowners dedicated their land for the extension. In 1925 the corners of the intersection at Roseneath were rounded and a large intersection was set aside, in anticipation of a another monument.
Forbes, an investor who made millions in the 1910s and 1920s, built an enormous Colonial Revival mansion just outside the historic district, west of Roseneath in 1914. He lost everything in the crash of the stock market in 1929, and moved out of his house in 1931. It is said that he sold the house for less than the original cost of the chandeliers. His house was demolished and the property broken up into lots for single-family houses.
Because most of the historic area of Monument Avenue had been built by the time the Depression hit, the lack of construction during the 1930s does not affect the continuity of the avenue. Though some homeowners were devastated by the crash, Monument Avenue remained an affluent address throughout the 1930s.
After World War II the vacant lots left on Monument filled up at random. The buildings that were built usually refer to Colonial Revivalism and the buildings around them, but seldom make a significant contribution to the streetscape. The houses on the east end of the avenue began to seem too large to families that had once had live-in staffs, but now managed with occasional help. The more modest houses west of the Boulevard seemed more appealing as the country adapted to suburban ideals. As a result, the 1950s and 1960s saw many of the larger single-family houses transformed into apartment buildings, nursing homes and doctors' offices.
The decline of American cities in the mid-twentieth century tarnished Monument Avenue. Crime increased as the street became a row of boarding houses and low-rent apartments. As more Richmonders moved to the suburbs, commuters used Monument as a speedway to reach downtown offices. As the writers of the HABS study note, only on the 2300 block, with some of the avenue's finest houses, did families retain a majority foothold.
Several events led to the resurgence of Monument Avenue, beginning in 1955 with the construction of a dark, out-of-scale, one-story, Modern doctor's office at 2016. This squat little building horrified supporters of Monument Avenue, and the residents began to vocalize their complaints more forcefully. Various civic plans for Monument Avenue were floated during the 1960s, with seemingly conflicting goals. Some plans intended to create a more efficient thoroughfare; widening the street, cutting down trees, and even moving monuments to spread them further apart and provide a smoother traffic flow. Other plans seemed to honor the avenue's past. A Richmond News Leader article from 1965 details the dreams of city planners to move the Stuart monument, to move Davis and add a reflecting pool in front of the avenue. Earlier in the 1960s, a monument to a Confederate woman was contemplated. A group of Richmonders, urged on by Roland Reynolds, a grandson of the founder of Reynolds Metals, debated the inclusion on Monument Avenue of a memorial to Captain Sally Tompkins. Tompkins ran a private hospital in Richmond during the Civil War so successfully that she was commissioned as a captain so she could receive supplies. Reynolds was interested in recognizing a female Confederate, and he talked to the surrealist Salvatore Dali about the project. Interest in the sculpture waned when Reynolds was killed in a freak accident.
Finally, the planned repaving of Monument Avenue in 1968 provided an opportunity for public discussion. Helen Marie Taylor, the owner of a huge mansion at 2325 Monument, stood in front of a paving machine that was to lay asphalt over the original asphalt Belgian blocks. Commuters and residents alike complained about the noise the blocks made when driven over, but when it came to repaving, the residents chose history over progress: The earlier events had primed the public, so when Mrs. Taylor blocked the work of the paving machine, the entire city joined in the debate. The homeowners and preservationists won the battle after some months, and Monument Avenue's fate had become a part of the public agenda.
Although Monument Avenue had always been in the center of public debates over history and aesthetics, more groups than ever began to form to affect the avenue's future. In addition to its roles commemorating our military past and expressing our style architecturally and artistically, the avenue was now also the focus of historic preservationists. The avenue had been laid out as a modern way to honor the past, and with the growth of the preservation movement in the United States at this period, the modernity of the plan itself was now considered historic and worthy of honor. In the 1970s groups with different perspectives, such as United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Monument Avenue Preservation Society, began to work separately and together to reclaim the street.
Deteriorating mansions were reclaimed; families renovated them for use in a modern era. In 1973 an Easter parade revived the use of Monument Avenue as a festive, public gathering space. These parades continue to grow in popularity every year, with a tremendous celebration in 1990, the centennial of the unveiling of the Lee Monument. The city of Richmond and the state of Virginia hired professional outdoor sculpture conservators to clean the monuments in the 1980s, and the patinas are now maintained regularly. The streaky green corrosion was mourned by some, but most appreciated the effort to preserved the original appearance of the sculptures. Tours of homes on Monument Avenue regularly showcase the increasing number of renovated mansions. No tour of Richmond is complete without a visit to Monument Avenue, and the tour guides no longer apologize and describe a street that once was.
The 1990s brought the most recent uproar on Monument Avenue. In late 1992 Paul Di Pasquale, a local sculptor, suggested to the tennis player and humanitarian, Arthur Ashe, that there should be a monument to him in his hometown. Just before his death in February, 1993 Ashe agreed that the African-American Sports Hall-of-Fame being planned for Richmond would be a good site. He sent some clothes to Di Pasquale and discussed with him his vision for an appropriate composition. Ashe preferred to emphasize knowledge and education over sports, so he requested that Di Pasquale sculpt him with a tennis racket in one hand and books in the other. The hand with the books was to be held higher than the racket, and a group of children were to sit at his feet. Although many objected to this composition, Di Pasquale's artistic method is to ask the subject how they would like to be portrayed, and he prefers to reflect their vision in his work.
Money was raised by a group that called themselves Virginia Heroes, and several sites were discussed. Since the Sports Hall-of-Fame is not yet built, they thought it best to find at least a temporary location for the sculpture. When former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder saw the model, he suggested that it be placed on Monument Avenue. Although several other sites were proposed, Virginia Heroes settled on Monument. When they proposed the sculpture as a gift to the city, the city had to analyze the various objections.
In several months of discussions that echoed those of the last century, Richmonders discussed why there hadn't been a competition, the quality of the sculpture, and the choice of sites. New arguments were concerned with complexities of the situation. Some felt that Monument Avenue was complete and that adding more to it would disturb a work of art. Some questioned whether or not a sculpture of a tennis player fit in with the perceived Confederate program of Monument Avenue. Others asked whether or not Ashe would have wanted to be on Monument Avenue. In his lifetime he had strenuously fought racism, and some feel that Monument Avenue honors one of the darkest periods in our past. Some asked if Richmond was really so deprived of public spaces -- was Monument Avenue the only place in town worthy of a sculpture? And was the best sculpture of Ashe Richmond could commission?
A public hearing in City Council chambers in the summer of 1995 ended the debate. Richmond's City Council felt that it was time to honor Ashe, and the appropriate spot was where we have honored so many of our heroes in the past century -- Monument Avenue. The intersection at Roseneath was chosen, since it had been set aside as a potential site for a monument in 1925. City Council also chose to accept Di Pasquale's sculpture rather than prolong the debate with competitions. The sculpture was unveiled in July, 1996 and very few protests have been heard since then. Many visitors have come to the monument, and those interviewed in the local papers rarely have a complaint.
Most Richmonders enthusiastically supported the idea of honoring Ashe's integrity and greatness in the face of adversity. The debate that focused on Monument Avenue as a Confederate shrine had simmered for over a century; since John Mitchell had voiced complaints about the Lee Monument in 1890. Monument Avenue represents a shrine to the Confederacy to thousands of visitors to Richmond every year, and to many people whenever they even think of Richmond. The avenue, which was begun as an attempt to lead Richmond visually and economically into the future, has anchored the city firmly in the past in many people's eyes. And not only Monument Avenue has been labeled by its connection to the Confederacy. In the city of Richmond, Monument Avenue is the largest, most visible, and most enduring symbol of the Confederacy -- serving to remind everyone of the city's role in a disastrous war that crippled the entire nation for a decade. By choosing to move forward again, to reassert Monument Avenue's commitment to heroism rather than to the Civil War, Richmonders reclaimed their avenue. Monument Avenue still provides the city's parade ground, its social arena, and its most spectacular residential boulevard, but now it also speaks for all the citizens of Richmond by honoring heroes that can be admired by all its citizens. The city's most recent conclusion to the long-running question fits Archer Anderson's analysis at the unveiling of the Lee Monument. Monument Avenue was proposed as a way to honor heroes, and whether or not they were Confederate would no longer matter.
Monument Avenue's plan is representative of several grand avenues built during the last half of the nineteenth century. A major boulevard with a wide, landscaped median lined by significant houses and punctuated by public sculpture promoted a city's progressive attitudes. The plan was made all the more glorious by its memorial program on Monument.
Monument Avenue is one of Richmond's fabled spaces, its parade ground and its showplace. Richmond is known as a city with an obsession with its past, and Monument Avenue is its shrine. After decades of being renowned as a street that venerated the Confederacy, the addition of the Ashe monument has returned the program to its original focus -- to honor heroes. Prom the very beginning, Monument Avenue represented the past and the future. Complexity is knit in the very fabric of its existence, and the street has provided over a century of conflict, and it has also become an icon for Richmond.
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[†] Driggs, Sarah S., Monument Avenue Historic District, 1997, nomination document, Susan Kline and Carolyn Pittes, editors; National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington D.C.
Street Names: Allen Avenue North, Allison Street, Belmont Avenue, Cleveland Street, Franklin Street West, Grace Street West, Lombardy Street North, Meadow Street North, Monument Avenue, Mulberry Street North, Park Avenue, Roseneath Road, Sheppard Street North, Tilden Street North, Wayne Street, West Avenue