RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond is no more.
The land where the bronze statue towered over Monument Avenue is now a mere traffic circle.
After being erected in the late 19th century, the statue was cut up in September, and sent to a women’s prison for storage in Goochland.
As of Friday afternoon — News Year’s Eve — every piece of the pedestal has been hauled off to an undisclosed location, the ground has been leveled and straw lies on top to help grass grow.
Among the many who protested during the 2020 racial reckoning, and the many to view the graffiti-ridden monument since Governor Northam ordered it down includes ‘Bee’, as he likes to be called (‘Bee the Gardener’ is his self-proclaimed name and full title.)
‘Bee’ has watched the statue fall day, by day.
“It feels good. I’m ready for the next thing, whatever that is; whatever God’s got in store for us,” he said.
After standing for over 130 years, a lengthy court battle concluded in 2021 over the governor’s order to bring the monument down. Virginia’s Supreme Court made the final ruling before the structure was removed.
“The hours are the blood, sweat and tears of this,” project construction superintendent Mike Spence said.
“We spent roughly 1,300 hours with a total crew of 21 to go from scaffolding going up, to stones taken down, to monolithic section removed, to time capsules removed, to cleared off and demo’d completely,” he said Friday.
The only trace to be found of the events of social unrest prior to the monument’s removal are the graffiti tagged barriers that display “Black Lives Matter,” profanity lamenting law enforcement, messages of compassion, and the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“For me it’s a relief to know that people can walk by here now and it has a greater community purpose than what it had before,” Spence said, noting he could not speak for his company, nor the state.
Spence said crew members unexpectedly ran into a what could be a lever system; potentially used to help lift pieces of the monument when constructed.
The governor‘s office said the black fence around the circle will remain until a quality control is complete, though that work will not be done over the holiday weekend.
The property, including the removed pieces of the statue and pedestal will soon be transferred over to the City of Richmond from the state.