RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia governor’s office announced Sunday it would remove the pedestal of the former Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond and cede the state-owned property on which it stood to the city.
Removal of the pedestal will begin Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said. The removal will be completed by the end of December.
“This land is in the middle of Richmond, and Richmonders will determine the future of this space,” Northam, who leaves office next month, said in a statement released by his office. “The Commonwealth will remove the pedestal and we anticipate a safe removal and a successful conclusion to this project.”
The statue, which had stood on Monument Avenue for 130 years, was removed earlier this year after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the state, which owns the property, was not bound by a century-old land deed between a group of Henrico County citizens who paid for the bronze sculpture to be made and the commonwealth.
Two years ago, the General Assembly passed legislation allowing for the removal of Confederate monuments on publicly owned properties.
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The Lee statue, once considered the “crown jewel” of all the Confederate memorials that dotted Monument Avenue for years, was the only one on Virginia-owned property. The rest were owned by the city of Richmond and were taken down in short order by the city as soon as the legislation was enacted.
The statue, in a traffic circle at the intersection of Monument and Allen avenues, was sort of a “ground zero” for protests last year in Richmond following the deaths of several Black citizens at the hands of police officers in Minnesota and Kentucky.
Once the pedestal comes down, the land will be conveyed to Richmond. While exact details for the traffic circle’s future post-removal haven’t been nailed down, plans called for the city and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to decide on a joint project for the spot.
The announcement from the governor’s office said the state will “safely disassemble and store the pedestal until next steps have been determined.” The statue that was on the pedestal also was disassembled and placed into storage.
A time capsule was reportedly placed inside the pedestal in 1887, but so far, crews have not been able to locate it. If found, the state will store it along with the pedestal.