Lee Park is a Charlottesville City Park, centrally located in downtown Charlottesville.
The city's comprehensive plan classifies Lee Park as an 'urban' park. The park is often used for festivals and music performances, and was the site of the Occupy Charlottesville protest. The western side of the park is used as seating space for the Garage.
An artist recommended to McIntire by celebrated American sculptor Daniel Chester French, Henry Shrady, created the original conception of the statue. But Shrady died before casting it. His last words were “to keep the canvas moist”-- referring to the canvas cover over the Lee statue’s preliminary clay model. Unfortunately over the next months the clay dried out, cracked, and the model was lost.
Shady was replaced by artist Leo Lentelli, who largely replicated an existing memorial to Lee standing at Gettysburg. Lentelli took pains with accuracy, including traveling to Richmond to measure Lee’s equipment "down to the galleons on the General’s sleeve.”
The bronze was cast by Roman Bronze Works. McIntire had hoped to use melted down Confederate cannons for the sake of sentiment, but there were none to be found in 1923. The statue was too large to be shipped in one piece and had to be assembled onsite. Walter D. Blair, architect, designed the granite pedestal for the statue. McIntyre had suggested a dedication to his mother Catherine McIntire but it was omitted from the pedestal's final design. There was no inscription, other than the simple name Lee, because it was thought words were incapable of adding anything to the “glory and immortality of great soldiers.”
The statue was unveiled at a ceremony May 21, 1924 by Mary Walker Lee, the three year old granddaughter of General Lee. University of Virginia President Alderson made the speech of acceptance at the dedication ceremony, saying:
“Here it shall stand during the ages at the center of our lives, teaching, through the medium of beauty, the everlasting lesson of dignity and character, of valor and unselfish service . . . in the majesty of his manner. [We dedicate this memorial] in this hour of union and reconciliation, in liberal and lofty fashion, with hearts unspoiled by hate and eyes clear to see the deeds of a new . . . day”
The statue of General Lee is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At the 2012 Virginia Festival of the Book, City Councilor Kristin Szakos raised questions over whether the Robert E. Lee statue in the park should be removed out of a concern it celebrates the state's Confederate past. The proposal was met with considerable backlash from the community, who view the statue as an important part of history. More recently, in March 2016 the issue of moving Confederate statues was revived.
The group Occupy Charlottesville began a protest campaign in mid-October 2011 which involved setting up tents to establish a permanent presence in the park. The city granted a series of permits allowing the occupation to continue and the current permit expired on November 24, 2011. The ongoing occupation prompted questions from Jefferson Area Tea Party chair Carole Thorpe regarding whether the city showed favoritism by granting the group a permit. The city evicted protestors on November 30, 2011 and 18 people were arrested.
Local Voices, Local History
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- Web. Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 10, City of Charlottesville, Charlottesville, Virginia, retrieved October 19, 2010.
- Robert Kuhlthau, Preliminary Notes on the Robert E. Lee Statue, (date?) (on deposit Albemarle Historical Society, Monuments file).
- National Register of Historic Places id #64500682, Four Monumental Figurative Outdoor Sculptures in Charlottesville
- Web. Historian talks Civil War as councilor wonders if statues should be torn down, Ted Strong, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, March 22, 2012, retrieved March 29, 2012.
- Web. Szakos decries response to statue comments, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, retrieved August 22, 2012.
- Web. City's Civil War statues remind us of our past, Daily Progress, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, March 27, 2012, retrieved August 22, 2012.
- Web. Debate over role of Charlottesville's Confederate statues reignites, Bryan McKenzie, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, retrieved March 22, 2016.
- Web. Movement afoot to remove Lee statue in Charlottesville, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, March 22, 2016, retrieved March 29, 2012.
- Web. Occupiers face balancing act with some who've joined in, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, November 5, 2011, retrieved November 7, 2011.
- Web. Jefferson Area Tea Party chair suspicious of Councilor Brown comment, Brendan Fitzgerald, C-VILLE Weekly, Portico Publications, October 18, 2011, retrieved November 7, 2011.
- Web. Officials hear 'death knell' of Occupy Charlottesville, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, December 1, 2011, retrieved December 5, 2011.