RICHMOND — In the city’s latest move to rid itself of widespread Confederate iconography, crews hauled away a bronze statue of naval commander Matthew Fontaine Maury and two cannons from Monument Avenue on Thursday.
The sculptures are the latest to fall since Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney skirted the advice of the interim city attorney and invoked emergency mayoral powers to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson on Wednesday. Unlike Jackson’s removal, which took about four hours, crews dismantled and hauled Maury away on a flatbed truck within two hours of their 8 a.m. arrival.
The Maury statue, unveiled in 1929, was the last of the five Confederate statues erected on Monument Avenue.
Maury, known as “pathfinder of the seas,” was a Navy officer and a scientist. He is buried in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.
By noon, crews had removed two cannons from Monument Avenue as well.
The first cannon to be removed, located just west of the Arthur Ashe memorial, was placed there in 1938 by the city of Richmond at the request of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society.
The pedestal bears a marker that states: “This cannon marks the location of the second line of the Confederate defenses of Richmond.”
The second cannon, located east of the Jefferson Davis memorial and erected in 1917, also was placed with the aid of the city at the request of the society. An inscription marking its pedestal commemorates “the spot where in 1861 a large earthwork of the inner line of defense was constructed.”
Paul DiPasquale, sculptor of the Ashe memorial, which was erected in 1996, was on-scene to guide the monuments’ removal. Also there was Jillian Holland, a sculptor who specializes in metalworking, to ensure the bronze statues were taken away intact.
The pair aided crews removing the Jackson statue on Wednesday, and they’ll continue to help remove the remaining Confederate monuments next week.
For now, the statues are headed to storage.
As artists, Holland and DiPasquale are disappointed to see the towering bronze statues squirreled away from public view. But, as members of the Richmond community, they said they realize the statues are no longer appropriate in a contemporary context.
Out of appreciation for the bronze and stonework, both DiPasquale and Holland hope the statues will find their final resting place in a museum.
“They deserve to be preserved in a proper museum setting,” DiPasquale said.
The spectacle of Maury’s removal attracted a crowd of about 100 people — in contrast to the nearly 1,000 who gathered to watch Jackson come down. DiPasquale said the city initially hoped to take down statues in the nighttime to avoid traffic and crowds, but those plans were scrapped when crews mobilized in the daytime on Wednesday — immediately after a special city council meeting and Stoney’s decision.
The support from the resulting crowds on Wednesday and Thursday, DiPasquale said, was encouraging.
“You can know what’s happening, you can see what’s happening, and you can participate,” he said.
Sharon and Alphonso Harris stopped on their way home to watch crews pry Maury from his pedestal. Sharon, who has lived in Richmond since 1978, said the monument’s removal left her speechless.
The couple is glad to say goodbye to what Sharon called “the celebration of hatred” symbolized by the monuments.
“We’ve waited a long time for this,” Alphonso said.
Gwen Mangine was on a family road trip to Pennsylvania when she caught word that Maury was coming down. She and her family are from North Carolina, but they recently visited Richmond to participate in the 5,000 Man March on June 13.
When she learned Maury was being removed just 15 minutes off of her road trip route, she pulled off the highway to catch the spectacle.
“It’s a celebration to see it happen,” she said.
DiPasquale said that the city has eyes on the statue of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart as next up for removal. Protesters attempted to take Stuart’s removal into their own hands on June 21, but were quickly shut down after police declared an unlawful assembly.
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