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History

State crews to begin dismantling of Lee Monument pedestal today

The pedestal, which effectively became a piece of public art throughout the protests of 2020, will be safely disassembled and kept in storage until a decision about its long term future can be made.

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From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

The pedestal that held the now-gone statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — and that last summer became a vivid display of frustration toward police violence and systemic racism — will be removed from its place on Richmond’s Monument Avenue by state officials before the end of the year.

The decision, which state officials announced suddenly on Sunday, was the product of behind-the-scenes deliberations between the state and the city of Richmond.

The removal of the pedestal is part of a broader agreement that will result in the city taking ownership of the land, which now belongs to the state. Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said the swift removal of the pedestal was an explicit request from city officials.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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History

The Valentine Museum and “Reclaiming the Monument” receive historic grant

The Valentine Museum and Reclaiming the Monument are the recipients of a $670,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Monuments Project.

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The Valentine Museum and Reclaiming the Monument are the recipients of a $670,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Monuments Project. The Monuments Project is an unprecedented $250 million commitment by the Mellon Foundation to transform the nation’s commemorative landscape by supporting public projects that more completely and accurately represent the multiplicity and complexity of American stories.

The Valentine has collaborated with Reclaiming the Monument founders and artist Dustin Klein (Technical Director) and Alex Criqui (Creative Director) to support the “Recontextualizing Richmond” public art project. This project, which will take place in 2022, will focus on the creation of a series of temporary light-based artworks addressing issues of historical, racial, and social justice in Richmond, Virginia, and the surrounding capital region.

“The Richmond story is America’s story. This project will bring new stories to light and encourage us to take a fresh look at our City’s history,” said Bill Martin, Director of the Valentine Museum. “We are excited to support the work of Reclaiming the Monument over the coming year. Richmond’s history has national significance and this grant from the Mellon Foundation recognizes the important opportunity we have to elevate it.”

Both organizations look forward to bringing visuals, conversations, and dialogue to the Richmond community, using primary source materials from the Valentine’s collection and other historical resources. For the Valentine, this is a unique opportunity to gather community feedback and support future projects at the museum.

The light installations, are intended to raise awareness about the neglected histories in our community as it continues to grapple with the complicated legacies of our past and how its telling has been used to shape and influence our present and future.

The collaborative nature of the project will create a greater dialogue between grassroots organizations, artists, historical institutions, and the general public that will lay a foundation for how public art involving historical memory can be created in a way that is inclusive and community-driven.

“It is our hope that by providing an opportunity for our community to engage with a more complete telling of our history through the power of public art that we will be able to help our city heal and move towards a future rooted in peace, justice, and equality,” said Alex Criqui, Creative Director for Reclaiming the Monument.

Recontextualizing Richmond will also produce educational resources that will be accessible to educators and students.

Additional information and details related to Reclaiming the Monument installations will be made available in early 2022. The Valentine and Reclaiming the Monument are committed to ensuring a safe and engaging event series for the Richmond community.

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History

Lead Box Found in Lee Monument Not the Elusive Time Capsule

Social media was a flutter as they opened up a lead box found in the base of Lee Monument. The flutter was for naught.

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Although the box found was not the box they were looking for it is still a part of history and will be preserved.

From NBC 12

On Wednesday afternoon, the conservation team and Governor Ralph Northam lifted the lid of the box containing three books, a cloth envelope, and a coin.

“Just a really important and exciting day for the history of this Commonwealth,” said Northam.

Of those three books, one was identified as an almanac from 1875 and another one appears to be an edition of, “The Huguenot Lovers: A Tale of the Old Dominion.”

The conservation team also uncovered a cloth envelope.

“Everything is very damp,” said Kate Ridgway, lead conservator for the Department of Historic Resources. “It looks like there’s possibly a piece of paper and then under that, it looks like there may be some kind of picture.”

Ridgway also said a coin was stuck on one of the books.

“The corrosion process is clearly already started,” she said. “When we opened the box, it was very silver-colored and now it’s starting to tarnish.”

It took nearly five hours to open the lid of the box, which the conservation team believes was wrapped in lead to keep the lid in place.

Richmond Magazine has a few additional details as well.

The dates on the materials indicate this time capsule may have been a minor celebration of the pedestal reaching the construction’s halfway point, designed to commemorate the officials in charge of the massive project. In other words, an ego gratification capsule, done on the sly with no media exposure.

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Governor Northam announces study to explore ways to reconnect Jackson Ward

“In the past, highway construction too often destroyed neighborhoods in the name of ‘progress,” said Governor Northam. “Now, some 70 years later, we now have the opportunity to explore ways to right these wrongs and re-connect historic neighborhoods.”

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Governor Ralph Northam on Thursday announced that the Virginia Department of Transportation and the City of Richmond are conducting a feasibility study to assess infrastructure options to reconnect the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood. This once-thriving community was severed by the construction of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike in the 1950s and now is bisected by Interstates 95 and 64.

“In the past, highway construction too often destroyed neighborhoods in the name of ‘progress,” said Governor Northam. “Now, some 70 years later, we now have the opportunity to explore ways to right these wrongs and re-connect historic neighborhoods.” The Governor noted that President Biden recently signed the new federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes new funds to reconnect communities that were divided by highway construction in the past.

The study will assess potential options to physically reconnect the north and south neighborhoods of this historic African American community. Once referred to as the “Harlem of the South,” Jackson Ward is split in half by the interstate, limiting access, growth, and connectivity to downtown Richmond.

The study will be a phased approach, beginning with a community visioning process to garner feedback and engagement from residents and business owners.

“State and federal housing and highway projects severed Jackson Ward, destroyed Black homes, and displaced thousands of Black residents,” said Mayor Levar M. Stoney. “This feasibility study, coupled with the recently announced HUD Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant for Jackson Ward/Gilpin, is an important next step toward healing these two communities and bridging the physical space between them.”

“Through this collaborative process, we plan to develop critical technical analysis and potential design options to support the city of Richmond’s goal of reconnecting Jackson Ward,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The study results and conceptual designs will also provide information needed for grant and funding options for this revitalization priority.”

“Having worked in the General Assembly for 15 years to redress racial injustice, I am pleased to see the Commonwealth take these steps to restore the Jackson Ward neighborhood to its historic footprint through community collaboration,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan.

“This feasibility study will help lay the groundwork to reconnect Jackson Ward, a predominantly Black community, that was once the heart of the City of Richmond,” said Delegate Jeff Bourne. “I look forward to working with the constituents of the 71st District, Mayor Stoney, and the Commonwealth as solutions are identified to right some of the past wrongs that have negatively impacted this once vibrant community.”

Further information on public outreach and study planning materials will be shared publicly upon finalization.

The City established a preliminary website for the project, which can be viewed here.

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