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Chapter 3 - Monument Avenue

Whenever Raleigh and Gayle ventured into downtown Richmond, they always took Monument Avenue, a road ridiculed as the Lost Causeway. Despite the sobriquet, the street was still one of America’s grand boulevards, lined with American Renaissance architecture and

 

punctuated by traffic circles containing Confederate memorials.

 

The first monument the Fuquas came upon during their second-place victory lap wasn’t to a Confederate, but to a hero from a different age placed there with a unanimous vote by the black-majority Richmond City Council in 1996. As they sat at the stoplight, Gayle stared at the statue. “Poor Arthur Ashe, the only winner on Losers' Lane.”

 

Raleigh clinched his teeth. “For God’s sake, you don’t put a tennis player where the second line of the Confederate earthworks ran for the defense of Richmond.”

 

The light changed, and they rolled on, engulfed by the towering oaks planted in the broad, grassy median.

 

They approached the first monument to a Confederate, Matthew Fontaine Maury, better known as the Father of Modern Oceanography rather than his exploits as a Rebel. Maury slumped in a chair below a titanic
globe and allegorical figures.

 

In the middle of the intersection sat the Stonewall Jackson monument. Stonewall, accidentally shot by his own men at Chancellorsville, was portrayed here on a pedestal on a horse facing north, eternally on reconnaissance for the South.

 

Once they made it through the intersection, the oaks in the median were replaced by sugar maples and

 

the road surface changed from asphalt to paving blocks. The car began to vibrate.

 

Gordon and Hezekiah passed the Jefferson Davis Monument,

 

encased by a half circle of thirteen columns, eleven columns for the seceding states and two columns for the states sending the Confederacy representatives and troops, Kentucky and Missouri.

 

The one and only president of the Confederacy was molded into an oratory pose, stepping up with his arm flung forward.

 

Directly behind the Davis statue rose a sixty-foot column with the Confederate motto Deo vindice wrapped around its apex. It was Latin for “God will vindicate” and Confederate for “The South was right.” “Miss Confederacy” capped the column, pointing to heaven.

 

They rambled by the revival-styled mansions, built mostly during the good economic times between the Panic of 1893 and the Stock Market Crash of 1929. By the 1920s, Monument Avenue was a full-fledged bourgeois suburb. Today, the neighborhood housed a more diverse demographic, from college students to multimillionaires.

 

Gordon maneuvered around a traffic circle and looked up sixty-one feet to his left at the man on the highest pedestal on Monument Avenue. They saluted the statue of General Robert E. Lee riding his horse, “Traveller.”

 

They saluted the giant bronze action figure of Jeb Stuart on a bristling mount.

 

As Monument Avenue turned into Franklin Street. . . . They glided deeper and deeper into the older sections of the city, sweeping through Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

 

What the urban school lacked in green space, it made up for in eclectic architecture.

 

At the eastern end of the campus was Monroe Park. Once used as a training camp for Confederate troops, the park was now a hangout for the homeless.

 

They crossed over Belvidere Street, where the modern high-rises mixed with the older architecture,

 

then turned onto Fifth Street. On the left was the Second Presbyterian Church, where Stonewall Jackson had worshipped.

Monument Avenue Historic District

West Franklin Street Historic District

Virginia Commonwealth University

Monroe Park Historic District

Commonwealth Club Historic District

Block 00-100 East Franklin Street Historic District

Second Presbyterian Church

Union Presbyterian Seminary