An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

July 20, 2018

Along the Avenue of Second Place Trophies

     While in Richmond recently, I killed time with a walk along Monument Ave. I have always enjoyed this street with its buffet of architectural styles, handsome trees and gardens, cobblestones, and the monuments themselves. It is one of Virginia's most beautiful, but increasingly controversial streets.
Mathew Fountaine Maury - Pathfinder of the Seas (2)

Along Monument Ave. (19)

Along Monument Ave. (13)

Along Monument Ave. (15)

Stonewall Jackson

Along Monument Ave. (20)

Along Monument Ave. (7)

J.E.B. Stuart (3)

Along Monument Ave. (2)

Along Monument Ave. (4)

Along Monument Ave. (21)

Metropolitan Community Church (2)

Jefferson Davis (2)

Jefferson Davis (1)

Along Monument Ave. (5)

Along Monument Ave. (18)

Along Monument Ave. (17)

Along Monument Ave. (16)

     When I was fresh out of school, and working a job where I felt unappreciated, I came home to Richmond one weekend, found a new job, and quit the one I had in Norfolk in a dramatic huff. I needed a place to live, and found an apartment in the house below on Monument Ave. It is quite the place now, but when I lived there it was an affordable dump. You could see where a previous tenant hung pictures on the wall because the site of each frame was outlined in roach droppings. There was a football-sized hole in my bathroom floor that gave you a good view down into my neighbors kitchen. It was nothing a piece of plywood and a rug couldn't hide, but my neighbors liked to cook collards, so there was always a strange smell emanating from that hole. I didn't live there long.
Along Monument Ave. (11)

Robert E. Lee (2)

Robert E. Lee (4)

Along Monument Ave. (10)

     With its large globe, hound dog, ox, swallows, and churning waves, the Mathew Fountaine Maury (Pathfinder of the Seas) monument is my favorite. 
Mathew Fountaine Maury - Pathfinder of the Seas (3)

     The last monument built on Monument Ave. was that of Arthur Ashe. I like that it was sort of a raised middle finger to all the Confederates, but I can't stand it artistically. Ashe looks like he is standing on the edge of an upturned concrete culvert from which children are pouring. To keep the kids from stealing his books, he holds them at bay with his tennis racket.
Arthur Ashe Monument (1)

Arthur Ashe Monument (3)

Branch Museum (1)

Branch Museum (2)

First Church of Christ, Scientists

     You would have to be living under a rock, or maybe a marble plinth, to not have heard about the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments. Personally I feel they should stay as part of the city's flawed, but colorful fabric, though I would like to see them somehow interpreted in a more historically accurate context. That said, if I grew up in Richmond as an African American, with these bearded bronze uncles constantly looking down on me, I know I would feel much differently.


  1. Ironically I was in Richmond today but didn't get to Monument Ave. I agree that the monuments should stay and also agree they mean something different to everyone. Loved your description of the Ashe monument.

    1. Thanks, Vikki! I have been going to Richmond a lot lately, and it has really transformed itself from when I lived there.

  2. I very much agree that the Confederate monuments are problematic. There was a news story recently about somewhere in Europe I think, where they brought together many many monuments from different eras such that together the monuments all have a historic rather than a glorification context.

    Hilarious comment about the Ashe statue! He certainly deserves better. My imagination tells me he's actually holding a stack of iPhones, and the kids want their phones back. Immediately! ;^)

    And wow what a gorgeous street. All gentrified now? America once upon a time built wonderful places to live. Now we build human warehouses--vast apartment blocks.

    1. Yes, it is nearly all gentrified now. The building where my apartment was is now a single family house again, and after renovations was listed at $1.15 million. I think I rented that apt. for $350 a month.

  3. Beautiful grand homes. It's easy to imaging the people living in them some 200 years ago, though I'd feel out of place living in one today.
    As for the monuments, if I were an african american I'd be offended by them. Once I acknowledge that, I can't support them staying in place. They must be moved to a museum or other historically appropriate setting. Next to the president of the confederacy other monuments should be build to remind us of the evil the south fought to preserve, that it lost the war, and of the price paid in blood and treasure.

  4. Don't mean to turn this into political debate, but, Chavliness, has a point. If one can put oneself in someones else's shoes -- i.e., can acknowledge that African Americans are offended by Confederate monuments, then seems they've got to go; they don't belong on one of Richmond's most prominent streets. Put them somewhere less obtrusive and give them context. But I appreciate the post and all the great images!! I haven't been in Richmond in years, though my sister lived there for a short while in, I think, the 80's. Ashe statue is so strange! Glad he's represented but you are right lousy design.

  5. The brick pattern on the building where you used to live is very unusual to my eyes but what a gorgeous collection of houses. I must admit it was a shock to me to see the size and scale of some of these monuments. I really had not pictured them as so large and oppressive depending on your view, esp. Jefferson Davis enshrined like Napoleon. Here in Madison, WI we have the northern-most cemetery of Confederate soldiers. The monument at this site is probably going to be removed. I think just more text would be enough as this is a cemetery and in no way really celebrates the "southern cause." And I agree on your aesthetic comments on Arthur Ashe.

  6. Thanks for the tour of a town I've never been! Having lived in Montgomery AL 4 years in the 1970's grades 4-7, I hear what you're saying on monuments like that. Though my ancestors didn't even live on this continent until the 1920's. Not sure historical flaws need to be removed, but asking a late friend from Savannah GA what he thought on confederate flags - "Keep them under a glass case, permanently locked."

  7. A fascinating walk - very different and pretty housefronts and interesting statues. The debate on statues reached the UK (where I am from) but as far as I know hasn't reached Germany (where I live).... yet!

  8. I have never been in Richmond but I see it is worth visiting. I love the way how this Avenue looks like, it is really well maintained and the flowers look neat and fresh. When it comes to monuments they are pretty but of course everyone interprets them in a different way. I also paid a big attention to these beautiful flowers that are on the photos. One of them looks similar to the ones I have in my garden, I mean fainbows ( ). Thanks for this awesome photo relation and how you described it!

  9. Beautiful pictures! Thank you for allowing me to be an "armchair traveler"