The George Rogers Clark statue at the University of Virginia will begin to come down Sunday from its pedestal in a park at the intersection of West Main Street and Jefferson Park Avenue, officials confirmed Saturday.
The statue was erected in 1921 on property that once housed the university’s coal bins and pharmacy. It was paid for by Paul Goodloe McIntire, who also paid for the statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee in Market Street Park and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in Court Square Park, as well as a statue at Fifth and Main streets honoring the Lewis and Clark expedition.
The city of Charlottesville on Saturday removed the Lee and Jackson statues and the monument depicting Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea.
Team Henry Enterprises, a Newport News-based contracting firm, oversaw the removals for the city and was awarded the contract for the George Rogers Clark statue’s removal, as well. Team Henry Enterprises also removed several Confederate statues in Richmond last summer.
“As recommended in the Racial Equity Task Force’s report and approved by the Board of Visitors in September 2020, the university has contracted for the removal of the George Rogers Clark statue on University Avenue,” a UVa spokesman confirmed. He said the removal will begin Sunday and that site work will continue for several days.
Plans are for work on the statue to begin around 7 a.m. and have it on a flatbed by 9 a.m. Those times are not set in stone, however.
To remove the base and finish the site, work crews will need to intermittently close single lanes of West Main Street between 13th Street Northwest and 14th Street Northwest beginning Sunday and continuing through Friday. The closures will be in one- to three-hour increments between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Parking on the south side of West Main in the area will be closed, as will the southside sidewalk. Pedestrians will need to use the northside sidewalk, crossing at 14th Street and Jefferson Park Avenue.
Flaggers will direct drivers through the area during the closures, but traffic will continue to move in both directions.
As for where the Clark monument will go, “The statue will be placed into storage as the university continues to work with a committee to determine a suitable location,” the spokesman said.
The university sent out a request for proposal for monument removal on June 14. It closed the RFP on June 21 and approved a contract on July 6.
The bronze-on-pink granite statue of Clark astride a stallion and confronting three Native Americans while backed by three frontiersmen wielding rifle, pistol and powder was recommended for removal by UVa President Jim Ryan’s Racial Equity Task Force last summer.
The removal is expected to cost about $400,000, officials said at a June Board of Visitors meeting. Once the statue has left the location, the university will discuss with students and members of American Indian tribes and the Indigenous community about what should replace it.
The statue of the Revolutionary War general has stood on UVa land for a century, but a push for racial equity and efforts by student leaders are forcing its removal. UVa leaders in 1921 actively lobbied McIntire, a wealthy Charlottesville philanthropist, for a statue of Robert E. Lee, but settled for Clark.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the statue has been vandalized over the years, including a failed attempt to decapitate Clark’s cast-bronze likeness.
The issue goes beyond the portrayal of American Indians, say those who wish to remove it. It goes to Clark himself and the era in which the statue was designed and built.
Clark was born in Albemarle County in 1752, an older brother of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. He was named a brigadier general in 1781 by then-Virginia Gov. Thomas Jefferson and was the highest ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the Revolutionary War.
Clark led a militia — settlers, farmers and citizens who were not regular soldiers — that fought in Kentucky and Ohio against the British and their Native American allies during the war. His success against the British won him the moniker “Conqueror of the Northwest,” which is etched in the granite base of the UVa statue.
After the war, Clark remained on the frontier and led militias against Native American tribes in an effort to secure land for the expanding country and negotiate treaties to gain more land for settlers.
Opponents of the statue note that McIntire’s gifts were planned, designed and erected as Virginia debated and passed racial purity laws and formalized in law racial segregation, including banning mixed-race marriages.
“When I was considering attending UVa, we walked around Charlottesville, and when we walked by the statue, I stopped and backed up,” Zac Russell, a UVa undergraduate and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, told The Daily Progress in 2020. “I was in shock. It was the most blatantly racist statue I had ever seen. People had put up a statue blatantly depicting the killing of Native Americans.”
The Racial Equity Task Force agreed and recommended that the university remove the statue and work with the Native American organization to build up the study, recruitment and community profile of Indigenous American students.