The Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond is at the intersection of Monument Avenue and Allen Avenue. The Monument Avenue Commission circulated background material on it for a public forum in August, 2017:1
Date Conceived: 1870 (upon Lee’s death)
Date Erected: May 29, 1890
Location: Round-a-bout Intersection of Monument Avenue and Allen Avenue
Sculptor: Jean Antonin Mercie (France), base by Paul Pujol (France)
Organizers: The Hollywood (cemetery) Memorial Association organized the Ladies’ Lee Monument Association which solicited funds for 16 years from all southern states. Their goal was a memorial statue in Hollywood Cemetery. Confederate General Jubal Early also organized a committee of men to raise funds for a memorial with Jefferson Davis as honorary chair. Former confederates throughout the south began to collect funds. By 1877 neither group had raised enough funds. The General Assembly passed an act creating a governor’s board to head the effort—led after 1885 by Fitzhugh Lee, R.E. Lee’s nephew— to which the men’s group gave their funds. In 1886 a legislative act combining the funds of the Ladies Lee Monument Association with the men’s funds for a total of $52,000.
Description: The statue on Monument Avenue is a 61’ bronze equestrian statue of General Lee, bare headed and in uniform, astride his horse Traveler in a calm stance reportedly following battle at Gettysburg or after surrender at Appomattox. The base is a marble oval with 4 granite pillars and a bronze plaque embossed with “Lee”. The base is unfinished from its original design which included allegorical groups on the south and north. The front would have included a figure of Liberty with a confederate soldier at her feet as she leaned on her spear and placed her laurel wreath on his head. The rear group would have depicted the Angel of Peace taking weapons from the Goddess of War.
The Governor’s board argued for many years about a location. Most members were in favor of Libby Hill or Gambles Hill for the long vistas afforded. In 1887 Col. Otway Allen suggested his property at the end of Franklin Street west of the city limits. The Governor preferred this site due to its potential for development and increased taxes from the suggested annexation of adjacent property. Allen’s offer was accepted based on a drawing by C.P.E. Burgywn, the city engineer, of a circular grassy lot, 200’ in diameter, at the intersection of the end of Franklin Avenue and the city limits. The final 1888 drawing by Burgywn indicated the many housing lots intended for sale and grassy tree-lined median extending north, south, east and west from the statue to create a grand residential district around the statue. The statue was erected in 1890. The street and area around it was called the Lee District until around 1907.