Monument Avenue is the site of several annual events, particularly in the spring, including the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K race . At various times (such as Robert E. Lee's birthday and Confederate History Month) the Sons of Confederate Veterans gather along Monument Avenue in period military costumes. Monument Avenue is also the site of "Easter on Parade," another spring tradition during which many Richmonders stroll the avenue wearing Easter bonnets and other finery or silly outfits.
In 2007, the American Planning Association named Monument Avenue one of the 10 Great Streets in the country. The APA said Monument Avenue was selected for its historic architecture, urban form, quality residential and religious architecture, diversity of land uses, public art and integration of multiple modes of transportation.
For the monuments depicting Civil War combatants, the statues facing north represent those who died in battle (and thus never safely returned home); the statues facing south represent those who survived the war.
The site for the statue was originally offered in 1886. Over some opposition, the offer was accepted and later withdrawn when opponents complained that the $20,000 for the Lee Monument was inappropriate because the site was outside the city limits. Richmond City later annexed the land in 1892, but the Depression meant that the Lee Monument stood alone for several years in the middle of a tobacco field before development resumed in the early 1900s.
The Lee Monument is a focal point for Richmond (most popular online maps depict the "Lee Circle" as the center of Richmond although the Virginia Department of Transportation uses the state Capital as its center). In the 1930s the woman called the local newspaper to report that Lee's horse was foaming at the mouth. In 1992, the iron fence around the monument was removed (in part because drivers were unfamiliar with traffic circles and would run into the fence from time to time and force costly repairs). When the fences came down, the stone base became a popular sunbathing spot for those in bikinis. In December, 2006, the state completed an extensive cleaning and repair to the monument.
The figure of Maury faces eastward, toward the Atlantic Ocean that the "Pathfinder of the Seas" charted. He holds in his left hand a pencil and compass and in his right hand a copy of his charts. Beside his left foot is his book, Physical Geography of the Sea, as well as a Bible, indicating the central role that faith played in Maury's life. A globe of the Earth is tilted slightly on its axis behind his head. It represents both land and sea and the lady standing calmly is a representation of "mother nature" between the land and the sea. Around the base of the globe are depictions of people clinging to a sinking boat in bad weather representing the dangers of the sea with a woman in the center and on the right (north) side of the globe there is a farmer, boy, and a dog representing Maury's work promoting land weather service which dates back further than 1853. Maury attended the International Meteorological Organization in Brussels, Belgium on August 23, 1853 where Maury, leading the way for this conference with his ideas of land and sea weather predictions, and representing the United States, promoted his ideas of safety on both land and at sea to many nations which agreed to follow his ideas. Every maritime nation had its ships reporting to Maury at the National (later Navy) Observatory in Washington D. C. These elements represent Maury's work with atmospheric science, to the benefit of all mankind and their enterprises on land and on the sea. Weather warnings and reports had been dreams of Maury during his lifetime up until when he died and he was successful in his work. He thought of the ships at sea as "a thousand temples of science for all of humanity" and believed these brought men and nations closer together in a common self-protection against storms and deaths. There are fish, dolphins, jellyfish, and birds around the monument's perimeter.
This statue was originally to have been placed in Washington, D.C., but was rejected because Commodore Maury, along with many other military leaders from Virginia, abandoned their careers with the Union military to support their country (home state) in the Confederacy. The monument was placed in Richmond instead of "Washington City" as it was called in his time.
Arthur Ashe died after giving his authorization and description of the statue, and before approval of the sculpture. His wife Jeanne Moutoussamy Ashe followed up on the project. She loaned the sculptor photographs and clothing of Mr. Ashe, she approved drawings and the full scale high model, and she directed DiPasquale to the mentoring non profit organization, Virginia Heroes Incorporated for possible fund raising. Ashe’s mother, Lorene Ashe, his Aunt, Dorothy Cunningham and his brother, Captain Johnnie Ashe as well as other family members also approved the sculpture within the year following Ashe’s death.
The Private Funding: Mrs. Marty Dummett President of Virginia Heroes and their Board Directors voted in December of 1993 to fund raise the $400,000 to complete the bronze and granite fabrication and installation of the high monument. Mrs. Dummett became Executive Director of the project and later, Thomas Chewning, President of Dominion Resources, with Senator Benjamin Lambert became fund raising co-chairmen.
City Approval and Site Selection: The Project was presented to Richmond’s city council appointed Arthur Ashe Memorial Committee in February of 1994 with unanimous approval. The project then moved several times through the following city councils, committees and commissions over the following year and a half: City Council under Mayor Kinney, City council under Mayor Young, Urban Design Committee, City Planning Commission and the City Public Art Commission. Mayor Young appointed two council representatives to the 12 member Site Selection Committee, chaired by Virginia Hero Member, Leonard Lambert, Esquire. Ashe’s cousin Randy Ashe served as the family representative. Monument Avenue was the site selected. This site selection was debated in a five hour internationally televised City Council Public Hearing in July 1995. Monument Avenue was selected as a site with one dissenting vote.
Installation was completed and the Monument unveiled at the rotary site at Monument Avenue and Roseneath Road on Arthur Ashe’s Birthday, July 10, 1996.
The Virginia Historical Society Ashe Model Presentation: This Museum at Boulevard and Park Avenue in Richmond, requested and acquired the full scale model from Virginia Heroes Incorporated in June of 1996. It has been on permanent display since 1998.
Controversial Public Art Localized: For almost two years prior to the unveiling, controversy raged from varied sources including organized resistance by a local gallery owner and art critic who had never seen the actual statue. The critic was later let go from her news paper. After the installation, the Art and Architecture critic for the Washington Post, B. Forgey wrote of DiPasquale’s work, “placing this statue of Arthur Ashe on Richmond’s Historic Monument Avenue was one of the most important things to happen in Virginia in the entire 20th century.” Since its debut, the monument has been published in books nationally and internationally and has generated one film and two Richmond PBS television documentaries.
The copy on the granite base is from the dedication in the front of Days of Grace, Ashe’s last book:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1