Richmond, VA: Monument Avenue

Walking down Monument Avenue doesn’t really feel like walking down a street in a small-sized U.S. city – it feels more like strolling around Paris or Barcelona.

The first plans for Richmond’s grand, tree-lined, grassy-median boulevard were drawn up during a search for the perfect location to build a moument to Richmond’s Confederate hero, Robert E. Lee. An area of land, just west of the downtown residential district, was selected &, as part of the design, a wide, mansion lined boulevard was to be built. The Lee monument was finished in 1890 & for the next 35 years, Monument Avenue’s homes, churches, & notable buildings sprung up along it. Soon other monuments joined Lee’s – J.E.B. Stuart (Confederate army general) & Jefferson Davis (president of the Confederate States of America) in 1907, Stonewall Jackson (Confederate army general) in 1919, Matthew Fontaine Maury (oceanographer & southern supporter) in 1929 – & the monikor “Monument Avenue” was adopted. As early as 1910, the grand homes along the avenue were broken up into boarding houses & eventually apartment buildings, a trend that is still strong today.

The avenue’s newest monument was added in 1996 & honors Richmond native & tennis great Arthur Ashe. This monument was built not without controversey, racially driven & historically driver, since all the other monuments paid homage to men involved in the Confederate States of America. The Arthur Ashe monument is a bit removed from the others, & is the furthest west of of the monuments.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

 

If you go…

What appears to be a short walk with monuments on every block on the Richmond tourist map is actually a 1.5 mile grand boulevard with the monuments spaced out by three or four city blocks. If you’re prepared with decent shoes & maybe a bottle of water (which we weren’t), it’s definitely walkable. If you’re not prepared, & it’s the middle of the summer, you’ll be exhausted by the end of it & frustrated by Richmond’s lack of easily hail-able cabs. You can also drive, as there is lots of street parking allowing you to hop out of the car & look at the monuments.

We visited mid-morning on a Saturday, after breakfast at the Strawberry Street Cafe, which seemed like a good time to visit – we had the street & sidewalks largely to ourselves. It took us a little over the hour to walk the whole street, backtracking a little bit & also taking our time to look at each monument.
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About christina

Christina is a 30-something D.I.N.K. travel writer & photographer who travels the world often wedged into the middle seat. Follow her on Twitter & Facebook.

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  1. Things to do in Richmond, VA: a 48-hour itinerary - June 19, 2013

    […] a car for your visit, as the tourist map makes Richmond look deceievably walkable (remember our Monument Avenue hike?) & there really isn’t any public transportation […]

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