Hill’s Last Stand
Confederate gravesite stops traffic, stirs neighborhood debate.
by Chris Dovi
Confederate Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill was known as a brave and competent leader, but the dead general’s record as a traffic cop hasn’t been so illustrious.
More than 110 years since he was buried in the middle of the Laburnum Avenue and Hermitage Road intersection, Hill’s tomb has become its own sort of Civil War battlefield — over how best to steer traffic around his memorial.
Some have even questioned whether, for the sake of public safety, Hill needs to yield to oncoming cars.
“It’s obvious that it’s gotten tense,” says Eric Gregory, president of the Bellevue Civic Association. It represents people who live in one of the historic Richmond neighborhoods affected by a proposal to turn the traffic circle around Hill into a traditional European-style roundabout.
Recently, Gregory says, he’s seen posts on his neighborhood Web site questioning Hill’s continued presence in the traffic circle.
Gregory’s organization previously issued a letter in support of the roundabout, but recently has taken a more neutral stance. “People have just thrown it out there as an idea,” he says. “A.P. Hill is where he is — I don’t think anyone has seriously studied the idea of moving him.”
Gregory’s predecessor, Roy Reynolds, goes one step further, calling any such talk misguided. A roundabout supporter, he notes that the statue is a military gravesite and a historic site within a historic neighborhood.
“I’ll tell you,” Reynolds says, “I’ll be elected president before A.P. Hill is moved from that site.”
Meg Lawrence heads the Ginter Park Residents’ Association, which supports a proposal by City Councilman Chris Hilbert to block the planned roundabout. The roundabout “is not the appropriate solution,” Lawrence says.
She’s aware that the issue of Hill’s presence in the center of a major intersection “has been raised — both pro and con,” but says she has no comment on any such talk. Ginter Park’s board leadership likewise has not discussed the statue.
Which leaves either the increasingly unpopular roundabout proposal or Hilbert’s plan, which maintains the stoplights that govern the circle.
“I think everyone wants what’s best the neighborhood and the residents,” Gregory says. But seeing what’s best is as difficult as seeing around A.P. Hill’s statue at rush hour. “People have their strong opinions about it,” he says.