Monument Removal: JEB Stuart Statue

With the Independence Day holiday over all eyes turned to the last city owned confederate statue on Monument Avenue: J.E.B. Stuart. The equestrian monument to the confederate cavalry officer was the first targeted by demonstrators and survived several ill-conceived attempts to topple it. According to several media reports the monument relocation team required additional specialized equipment to dismantle and remove the Stuart statue hence the choice to take on the much smaller Maury memorial before taking down the 8 ton statue.

While many Richmonders and media expected the statue to come down on the morning of Monday July 6th workers from Connecticut wouldn’t commence work in Richmond until the following morning. This information had not been relayed to the general public or media and one poor crane operator on an unrelated job delivering an air conditioner on nearby West Avenue was pestered by a number of curious individuals inquiring whether he was here for the Stuart statue. As the morning progressed city authorities clarified that no statue would come down until the following day but for security reasons would not specify which monument would be next.

On Tuesday June 7th just before 7:30 AM deputies from the Richmond City Sheriff’s Department and officials with Department of Public Works arrived at the intersection of North Lombardy and Monument Avenue closing off the intersection to traffic in preparation for the departure of the Stuart statue.

For the next hour a handful of spectators and journalists arrived to observe the scene on Monument Avenue however very little transpired until the convoy of professionals from the Smedley Crane Company arrived at 8:20 AM. Much like the previous week’s job at the Stonewall Jackson statue the workers brought with them a large crane, a lift and an 18 wheeler lowboy trailer.

With the blazing morning sun shining straight down Monument Avenue and onto Stuart Circle the crews quickly got to work hoping to wrap up before the heat of the day arrived. Even with an early start it would soon reach 90 degrees thanks to clear skies and the brilliant rays of the summer sun.

Unlike the operation at the Jackson statue removal city crews established a physical perimeter with orange construction fencing to keep observers at a safe distance from the statue and workers. These fences would prove helpful however the crowds gathered to see the Stuart statue removed proved to be much smaller with only several hundred gathered to watch the process unfold.

The first step to removing the Stuart statue was to stabilize the giant monument with straps that would ultimately be used to lift it from the pedestal. Workers coordinated with the crane operator to build a three point harness around the equestrian figure safely prepping it for the daunting task ahead for metal workers.

Around 10:15 AM specialists climbed onto the graffiti covered statue and using metal cutting tools grinded away the bronze coverings to access bolts holding the structure to the granite pedestal. Workers labored through this process on the blazing hot metal monument for nearly an hour before finally cutting through enough material to free the statue.

Just before 11:15 AM a signal wave was given from the crewmembers elevated on the lift and the crane operator revved the engines of his powerful hydraulic machine. The crane pulled and the straps grew tight before the Stuart statue made an ever so slight sway and lifted into the air. Just a split second later the Stuart monument was airborne and the nearly vertical crane  and statue cast a shadow down Monument Avenue as if they were a giant sun dial indicating that time was up for The Lost Cause myth in Richmond. With the statue lifting through the air the gathered crowds cheered with several chiming bells to toll the end of Stuart’s presence on the city’s grand avenue.

The statue removal crews delicately rotated the statue with guide ropes as the crane raised and then lowered it to the ground. Once safely on the ground the team built a stabilizing base so they could reorient a new harness on the monument so it could be repositioned horizontally for transport on the tractor trailer. This process would be a lengthy one with workers spending another 90 minutes building a platform, repositioning and safely stowing the statue for transport.

Just before 1 PM the operation was complete with the statue wrapped in a giant tarp and workers hauling it off to a temporary storage facility in Southside Richmond until a final home can be found for it.

Day of Unrest in RVA