Why Richmond, Why?  Save Our Statues

By: Philip Riggan
April 16, 2012

What can we do to Save Our Statues? – Me

These are tough economic times, but Richmond’s statues already have jobs, they just need our tender loving care.

We’re in a tough spot because we keep stressing how important tourism dollars are to our economy in Richmond and Virginia. Check figures from the Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau:

6 million travelers visit Richmond region annually
Travelers spend $1.75 billion here annually

Our statues are a part of why Richmond is "Easy to Love" and their jobs are to be tourist attractions and enhance the importance and significance of our city and its history.

Why should we care? How about a huge global event coming to our town? With the 2015 UCI Road World Championships coming to Richmond, it has been estimated:

400,000 spectators expected with $135 million economic impact statewide; $86 million in Richmond

There will be many Europeans among that group of visitors for the bike event and Richmond gets plenty of foreign visitors. Not to stereotype, but don’t most Europeans appreciate statues, sculpture and history? Let’s invest a little of that money we are expecting to bring in and give our statues a quick fix-up spit shine to welcome our guests?

Last week, Why Richmond, Why?!? tackled the question of why three statues on Monument Avenue are turning green. This week, let’s figure out a way to fix it with Laura Cameron of Save Our Statues, which "seeks funding for its comprehensive, long-range plan to stabilize the 21 deteriorating statues on City property and assure their continued care," according to the website.

"Our approach is city funding for restoration, then we fund maintenance," Cameron said in an email. "Since the city has not funded the restoration of anything on Monument Avenue, Save Our Statues has no need to fund maintenance."

Cameron shared figures from a survey commissioned four years ago — before the economy tanked — by the Historic Monument Avenue and Fan District Foundation to estimate the restoration of all the city’s statues. Cost for three statues on Monument Avenue are alarming:

Matthew Fontaine Maury: $120,000

Jefferson Davis: $120,000 for the metal, not the stone, which needs work

JEB Stuart: $65,000

"The statues on Monument Avenue, as best we can determine, were last done in the mid 1980s," she said. "No surprise that they look bad.

[Robert E. Lee], of course, looks great, thanks to the Commonwealth of Virginia" which maintains the statue.

"Many people think green is picturesque and harmless and it is not," Cameron said of the . "I would assume corrosion would create holes that would allow all kinds of bad things into the metal.

"Our city’s statues are among our glories. Few cities of our size have so many of such high quality, telling so many different stories…no one would disagree that the ones on Monument Avenue in particular are a big part of what make it one of the most beautiful streets in the world. It is truly sad that the Monument Avenue statues in particular could not be restored before the anniversary of the Civil War."

The group is currently seeking funds for the Christopher Columbus statue in Byrd Park, which Andrew Baxter of Bronze et al restored a couple of years ago. Check the before and after photos above to see what an oxidized and corroded statue looks like in comparison to a restored statue.

As for the statues under the city’s care, “we had a professional assessment of the city’s statues and monuments done approximately three years ago, and based on that we have developed a prioritized list for conservation and maintenance,” said Dr. Norman C. Merrifield, director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. “We encourage the community to assist the Enrichmond Foundation in the establishment of endowments to provide for their care.”

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On The Web:   http://www2.richmond.com/news/2012/apr/16/why-richmond-why-save-our-statues-ar-1840260