Thursday, September 24, 2020


A young doctor attempts to rectify his life by prescribing cyanide for his new wife.

Alice stares out at us from the darkness of a damaged newspaper photograph, but even with such a dim likeness, we can guess the character of the person in the photo.  Her hair is curly and dark and her face full and round.  Her smile is lopsided and bucktoothed and she has a gap in her upper teeth.  Alice’s father was English, and perhaps that is where she got her round face and crooked smile that seem to signal a good sense of humor and a hearty, sincere laugh.  She looks like the kind of girl who might prefer a glass of beer than a little sip of sherry.  It is her eyes, however, that still shine through that dim pane of time: perhaps blue, light-colored, alert and cheerful eyes.  She smiles into the camera, a new bride with her entire life suddenly broadening out and unfolding, full of promise and affection.  Instead, Alice’s life hardly began when it was over, murdered by the man who was supposed to love and protect her: her new husband.  According to her death certificate, Alice’s life lasted exactly nineteen years, six months, and seven days.


Alice Knight Johnson (1898-1917)

The photograph of Alice’s new husband, Lemuel Johnson is very different.  Taken from the 1917 Medical College of Virginia student yearbook - the year of his graduation from the school. Lemuel hardly looks celebratory.  Behind his spectacles his eyes look pained, and his downturned mouth is hardly the confident look of a young man ready to make his way in the world.  Lemuel had good reason to look unhappy, even though he passed the North Carolina Dental Board exams and was ready to return to his native state and establish his practice. 

Lemuel J. Johnson (1893-1925)

The United States entered World War I in April 1917, just as Lemuel was finishing school, and he was one of the thousands of men called up for enlistment as the country prepared to go to war.  The inevitability of being drafted into the Army and sent to France worried Lemuel as it would spoil his plans - never mind the threat of death or wounded by in action.  In addition, both his parents were unwell, and trying to provide for them would be impossible if the Army had him in its grasp.  There was also a slight problem with his marriage.

Lemuel met Alice Knight in Richmond at the School of Dentistry, where she was a stenographer.  They soon fell in love, and were secretly married September 18, 1917.  Lemuel had broached the subject of marriage with Alice’s mother weeks before, jokingly asking her “Do you mind my making a Tarheel out of Alice?” but the girl’s parents had no idea of the event until they were shown the marriage license.  Lemuel told Alice that he wanted to keep their marriage secret: “He said that the reason was that his father wanted him to marry an old maid schoolteacher in North Carolina,” and he needed some time to break the news to his parents.  The real problem was that Lemuel was infatuated with a woman back in his hometown.  What was even worse, Miss Ollie White proudly wore the engagement ring Lemuel Johnson had given her two years before.  A month before Alice’s death, he wrote to Ollie, “Sweetheart, please do not speak of leaving Christmas; it causes my heart to ache,” and concluded, “Always yours, or no one’s one, Ollie.”  He wrote a love letter to Ollie the morning of the day of his wedding to Alice. The two sides of his life, once so carefully bulkheaded, were converging and collapsing and Lemuel Johnson began to plan how to reduce his troubles by half.


Alice and Lemuel Johnson


Saturday night, December 15, 1917, was cold and cheerless in Richmond, with the thermometer recording a high of 26 degrees.  “The sudden drop in the mercury last night served to keep the streets covered with a sheet of ice and made walking difficult,” reported the Times-Dispatch. Nevertheless, Alice Knight Johnson managed to make her way the twelve blocks from her house at 1513 North 22nd Street to the home of her friend, Mrs. B. F. Stutz at 522 North 27th Street on Church Hill.  Mrs. Stutz was an old friend and confidant from Alice’s job at the Medical College.  Later, she recalled a conversation with Alice, who told her five weeks before her death that she was taking medicine that her husband was giving her.  Mrs. Stutz cautioned her about ruining her health by taking medicine unnecessarily, but Alice replied that she was not afraid, “because the young doctor had mixed it himself.”


522 North 22nd Street, where Alice Johnson visited her friend, Mrs. B. F. Stutz, on December 15, 1917.  Alice never left alive.


Also visiting Mrs. Stutz that evening was a third friend, Mildred Taylor.  The three ladies ate a late supper, after which Alice showed off some of the medicine prepared by her husband.  One pill in the box seemed huge in comparison to the rest.  “How can you swallow such a large one?” asked Miss Taylor, and Alice cheerfully replied, “Oh!  This will knock ‘L’ out of me,” and laughingly swallowed the pill.  Within minutes she excused herself and staggered off to the bathroom for water.  When she emerged, Alice gasped, “Oh, I am so sick.”  The girl collapsed and her friends rushed over to her.  They heard the growing hysteria in Alice’s voice when she kept crying she was experiencing a smothering sensation.  As the two horrified women looked on helplessly, within minutes Alice Johnson was dead.

The death of the young woman was a mystery, and the lack of proper resolution to what happened to her hung over Alice’s funeral on December 17th.  After an examination of Alice’s body, the Richmond City Coroner James Whitfield listed her cause of death as “accidental poisoning by medicine.”  Apparently, her pills had somehow been mixed up with those containing cyanide.  Alice’s funeral service was conducted at her parent’s home at 1513 North 22nd Street, where her grieving husband accepted the condolences of shocked family and friends.  Lemuel and the mourners followed the hearse carrying Alice to Oakwood Cemetery, where she was buried in a plot purchased by her parents.  Afterward, Lemuel packed his bags and boarded the train for his hometown in North Carolina, while back in Richmond Alice’s grieving parents faced their first Christmas without their young daughter. 


Alice’s parent’s home at 1513 North 22nd. Street, where she lived even after she married Lemuel Johnson.  Alice’s body was taken from here to Oakwood Cemetery.


On December 27, Richmond Detectives Sergeants Wily and Smith had a long interview with Alice’s parents at their Church Hill home.  Up until that point Mr. and Mrs. Knight resisted the idea that Lemuel may have had a hand in their daughter’s death, but that was slowly changing. “…Even the mother of the dead girl,” reported the Times-Dispatch, “who hitherto has maintained an unbounded confidence in the husband of her daughter, has turned against him.”  The evidence was quickly mounting against Lemuel and all signs pointed to him as Alice’s murderer.

The story unfolded quickly during the holiday season.  On December 20, Lemuel was found in a hotel room in Wilson, North Carolina on the railroad line to Richmond and twenty miles from his parent’s home in Middlesex.  He had apparently taken poison and was rushed to the hospital in Wilson.  Richmond Detective Sergeant L. J. Johnson arrived, armed with a warrant for Lemuel’s arrest, charging that he “unlawfully, feloniously, and of his own malice did murder one Alice Johnson,” and arrested Lemuel in his hospital bed.

The lurid story of the murdered girl, apparently cruelly deceived by her malicious new husband who was engaged to marry another, and now attempted to kill himself, had all the ingredients of a sensational thriller.  It certainly captured the imagination of the press and the story spread nationwide.  A Richmond newspaper opined that the affair was attracting as much attention as the hugely notorious case of Thomas Cluverius, who murdered his (pregnant) female cousin in 1885,  or the shotgun murder on Midlothian Turnpike of Louise Beattie by her husband in 1911, a crime covered by Style Weeky Magazine in 2019. 


An example of the sensationalism surrounding the arrest and trial of Lemuel Johnson.


Among the many Richmonders who were following the expanding story of Lemuel and Alice must have been Amos Hadley, another local physician who, like Lemuel Johnson, was balancing two different relationships.  Like Lemuel, Hadley chose one woman over another, and consequently went to the electric chair for the murder of his wife. That same December central Virginia was already transfixed by the trial of Asa Chamberlin, a Goochland doctor who killed his brother (a county judge), dismembered his body, and buried the pieces behind his house in his farmyard.

When Richmond detectives returned to Richmond with Lemuel, they brought with them packets of correspondence between the young dentist and Miss Ollie White, who his neighbors in Middlesex had been assured was his fiancée.  They painted a damning picture of a young man caught in the inexorable grip of his own making.  One letter to Ollie White was written the morning of his marriage to Alice.  “All I can do just now is love you with all my heart,” Lemuel wrote.  “Some day we will be as happy as we can be.  Dear, just have a long dream about me to-night and tell me all about it when I get home…”  They also searched Lemuel’s hotel room in Wilson and found odd mementos: the silver plate pried off the lid of Alice’s coffin (engraved, “At Rest”), and a faded floral arrangement from Alice’s funeral on which was a card inscribed, “My Wife.”  They also confiscated the series of letters Lemuel wrote and signed the night he took poison – an attempt to kill himself Lemuel said he did not remember.


The old Richmond jail in Shockoe Valley being demolished in 1958 for construction of Interstate 95.  This is the building where Lemuel Johnson was held while on trial for murder.

After a brief hearing in the Police Court in the basement of City Hall before Justice John Crutchfield on January 12, Lemuel was indicted for his wife’s murder and returned to the Richmond City Jail to await trial.  In the course of this preliminary hearing, Dr. A.F. Williams, who was called to the Briggs Hotel in Wilson, North Carolina, reported entering Lemuel’s room and noticing the smell of prussic acid, a derivative of the same cyanide of potassium found in Alice’s stomach.  Mrs. Stutz, one of the horrified witnesses to Alice’s dying moments, recalled in an earlier conversation with Lemuel during which he had asked rhetorically, “Why should a murderer be held responsible if the Lord intended them to die by the hands of a murderer?”  At one point, Justice Crutchfield cleared the courtroom so Mrs. Stutz could relate “confidences” told her by Alice, despite the objections of Lemuel’s defense attorneys from North Carolina, Harry Smith and John E. Woodward.  Woodward was a particularly skillful defense lawyer and was successful in several murder cases.  The prosecution was headed by Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney George E. Wise.

A blizzard of motions for delay were filed by the defense team, postponing the trial to March, to April, and then to late May, 1918, but throughout, Lemuel said nothing about his guilt or innocence.  “Detectives Wiley and Smith…have been confident for the past few days that he would weaken and make a clean-cut statement of the details surrounding the death of his wife,” reported the Times-Dispatch, “but a conference with W. H. Smith, Jr., who may be retained as one of his counsel, is thought to have sealed the lips of the prisoner.”


Part of the case against Lemuel Johnson involved his access to the poison, potassium cyanide. 


With the delays, the case against the young dentist appeared to be unraveling, and some important witnesses in North Carolina flatly refused to respond to the summons issued in Richmond.  Two pharmacists in Wilson, North Carolina and employees of the hotel where Lemuel tried to kill himself refused to testify.  Most damaging was the unwillingness of Ollie White, Lemuel’s supposed fiancé, to testify against him.  There was an exciting turn in the case when an unsigned confession supposedly made by Lemuel in the Richmond jail to Lloyd Gill, a Washington newspaper reporter, was thrown out as inadmissible and the reporter banned from the courtroom.  When Lemuel did take the stand, he related the perfect storm of “over-study in his dental course, his mother critically ill, about to be inducted into the National Army and nervousness as the result of the loss of sleep” that led him to take poison in his hotel room.  He said yes, he wrote the letters discussing his impending suicide attempt, but had no memory of doing that or taking poison.  “I had worried until I was absent-minded” Lemuel told the jury, as the explanation for his behavior.

At the end of the trial, Commonwealth’s Attorney Wise delivered what was termed “a scathing arraignment of the dentist,” that lasted two hours, but it was futile.  After fourteen days of testimony, the jury only deliberated an hour and ten minutes in the case of The Commonwealth v. Lemuel Johnson, and declared him innocent and a free man.  Judge David Richardson cautioned the court that he wanted no outbursts when the verdict was read, but the estimated hundred people in the room burst into cheers.  “That looks good to me” Lemuel said to reporters with a big grin as his finger traced the word “innocent” in a newspaper headline that night. 

Lemuel Johnson returned to North Carolina, but never married his other love, Ollie White.  In 1922, she married Roscoe Pierce and moved to Franklin County, North Carolina.  In 1924, Lemuel, who had established a practice in his hometown of Middlesex, married a woman named Lena Snells, but happiness did not follow for the young man despite the success of his business.  Perhaps he did feel, as he mentioned to Mrs. Stutz, that his was only the hand of inevitable fate and that Alice was bound for Oakwood Cemetery at a young age no matter what course her life took.  Or perhaps he was forever haunted by the face of his nineteen-year-old bride smiling up at him with trust and confidence, and Alice good-naturedly beaming at the thought of the possibilities of their new married life to come.  

This weathered slab of concrete covers the grave of Lemuel Johnson in Nash County, North Carolina.  Courtesy of Find A Grave and William Kemp.


The week before Thanksgiving, 1925, was cool and clear in Nash County, North Carolina.  Lemuel Johnson, came out on the front porch of his father’s house and surveyed the yard and the sky.  He then produced a revolver from his pocket, pressed the muzzle against his head, closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.  Back in Richmond, a newspaper article hinted darkly at Lemuel’s role in the death of Alice: “No reason is known for the deed, but Dr. Johnson had seemed depressed for some time, and it is believed that some secret trouble was preying on his mind.”  The same Nash County registrar who filled out his death certificate and bluntly stated Lemuel’s cause of death as “shot self in head” also calculated the dentist lived thirty-two years, eight months, and eleven days. 


The grave of Alice Knight Johnson in Richmond’s Oakwood Cemetery.


Today, it isn’t easy to find the last resting place of Alice Knight and her parents.  Their headstones are slowly sinking in the grass of Richmond’ Oakwood Cemetery and because of that, at first glance the Knight plot appears empty.  Alice’s mother died at age 48 in early 1925, too soon to hear of the suicide of her former son-in-law, but George Knight lived until 1929 and would have had the satisfaction of hearing of Lemuel’s shooting himself when he read of the once-notorious dentist’s death in the Richmond newspapers.  The three of them, mother, father, and young daughter have been there under their blanket of green for a hundred years.  Still, the determined visitor can brush the grass away to reveal the marker the grieving parents chose for their once-cheerful child, the sad victim of a heartless young man who once swore to protect and love her:



Age 19 Yrs.

Blessed are the pure

of heart for they

shall see God.




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Sunday, September 6, 2020

Photo Analysis Yields Location of Historical African American Structure

With the end of the Civil War, a series of newly freed African American communities were established around the Richmond area. Among these was Westwood, still a thriving community centered on Westwood Baptist Church and located at Patterson Avenue and Willow Lawn Drive. See the Shockoe Examiner’s account of Westwood’s remarkable history Here and a community called Ziontown, now largely destroyed by suburban sprawl along Henrico’s Ridge Road, described in Richmond Magazine two years ago. 

Perhaps the least known is the African American community at Bandy Field on Three Chopt Road, founded around the same time as Ziontown and Westwood, but now completely obliterated except for its historic cemetery. The Shockoe Examiner addressed the plight of this particular cemetery in a previous post in 2019. 


The overturned tombstone of Queen V. Johnston (1875-1900) in the Sons and Daughters of Ham cemetery.

The African American cemetery located between the University campus and Bandy Field Nature Park has received a lot of attention lately.  Research is ongoing as to exactly who is buried on the site.  There are two standing tombstones and research has demonstrated there are more graves.  A volunteer group, the Friends of the Sonsand Daughters of Ham was organized to coordinate modern research with the concerns and rights of the relatives and heirs of people buried in the cemetery.  

The council hall that was the social heart of the Bandy Field community was known to have stood somewhere on the one acre property, but until its location in relation to the cemetery and property boundaries was a mystery.


The only other surviving grave marker is that of Moses Bradford, which shows the distinctive shield design used on all government-issued tombstones for veterans of the Spanish-American War.

In April 1943, a forest fire roared through the woods of Westhampton, burning the now thickly wooded area between Bandy Field and the University of Richmond campus and in the process consuming some structures in the area.  The evidence of that day can still be seen in a line of partially burnt fence posts that run along the UR boundary in the woods.

One of a line of partially-burned fence posts which have stood here since the 1943 fire.

One of the buildings consumed by the fire was the Sons and Daughters of Ham council hall at Bandy field.  At the time, a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter drove out to the West End and took a photo of the wreckage of the still-smoldering building.  Perhaps in an attempt to be clever, this image was juxtaposed with a photo of Mrs. Louise Bradford, holding the remains of a ham burned when the forest fire consumed her smokehouse.


In the background of the photo of the smoking wreckage of Ham Hall, the woods have still not leafed out and in the distance, the tree line on the far side of the UR campus is dimly visible across the valley.  On the left, the falling edge of the tree covered hillside near Edgehill Road is visible.  Note also the stump of a brick chimney on the left edge of the photo and beside it, the collapsed remains of a cast-iron wood stove.   

The forked tree in the distance in the 1943 photo of the smoldering wreckage.

The forked tree is still alive to testify to the location of the hall used by the Sons and Daughters of Ham.  A modern photograph shows the same tree, 77 years later, still standing on the edge of the hill.

Comparing the 1943 photo and one taken today shows the tree and indicates the position of the Sons and Daughters of Ham on the site.  In addition to the testimony of the forked tree, there is a line of broken brick protruding from the ground beside the modern fence that defines the Bandy Field park area.  The bricks can be seen in approximately the position of the remains of a chimney that is visible in the 1943 image.


Compare this photograph with the 1943 newspaper image of the smoldering building.  The Sons and Daughters of Ham building stood in the patch of ivy in the foreground of this photograph.

There is an existing photograph of the community / fraternal hall that stood a short distance away at Ziontown.  Using that building as a model, a conjectural picture of the entire Sons and Daughters of Ham complex is possible with some certainty that the location of the structure is correct, positioned on the edge of the sunken road now known as Chandler Drive.  

A conjectural drawing of the Council Hall of the Sons and Daughters of Ham.

The evidence of the 1943 newspaper photograph, the bricks, and the survival of the forked tree in the background all pinpoint this location of the community hall on the one-acre site.  Even a cursory examination of the area beneath the vegetation of this area may produce more information and artifacts that would further define what we know the building.  Locating the remains of any brick piers or foundation traces would at least yield the dimensions of the structure and how it was built.  Below the site, on the other side of Chandler Road, is an extensive trash pile under the leaves may also hold an enormous amount of information on the residents of Bandy Field and the heart of their community, the council hall of the Sons and Daughters of Ham.

- Selden. 

Friday, September 4, 2020

Adèle Clark, Artist and Activist

Adèle Clark, 1920s.

VCU Libraries' Special Collections and Archives has a new online exhibit on Adèle Clark (1882-1983), Richmond artist and art educator who championed the rights of women and promoted the arts in Virginia. Clark was a founding member of the Virginia women's suffrage movement and longtime president of the Virginia League of Women Voters. She was a progressive reformer, lobbyist and lifelong advocate for racial cooperation. 

This exhibit explores Clark's work as an artist and political activist. It uses images of materials primarily found in the Adèle Goodman Clark Papers housed in Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library, VCU Libraries.

Explore the exhibit HERE.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Washington Monument in Monroe Park, 1871-1883

Stereoview card image ca. 1870s of the George Washington Monument
which stood in Monroe Park, 1871-1883. The image
is courtesy of the Valentine Museum. 

Reverse of the Washington Monument stereoview card,
published by the Anderson Gallery (owned by David H. Anderson, photographer). 

The bronze monument that stood in Monroe Park from 1871 to 1883 was a copy of the life-size marble "George Washington" statue by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828) that has stood under the interior dome of the Rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol building since 1796.

Houdon was an accomplished and well-known French sculptor who visited George Washington at Mount Vernon in 1785 to make clay life models of him. According to the Visitor's Guide of the State Capitol, Houdon's Washington statue was begun in 1785, signed "1788," completed in 1791 or 1792, and delivered in 1796.

"George Washington" statue by Houdon 
in the rotunda of the Virginia state capitol building.

The standing figure of Washington is shown
in his general's uniform. His right hand holds a stick and his left arm
rests on a pedestal over which a coat is draped. 

William James Hubard

Self portrait of William James Hubard (1807-1862)

The marble Houdon statue of Washington was copied in bronze by artist William James Hubard. Born in England in 1807, Hubard arrived in the United States in 1824. He worked as an artist in a few different cities before arriving in Virginia and settling in Gloucester County in the early 1830s. He soon established a successful career as a portrait artist. By the early 1850s, he had moved to Richmond. He and his wife, Maria Mason Tabb Hubard, began living just outside the city on in what is now the 1100 block of Grove Avenue. He became a close friend of Mann S. Valentine II (1824-1892), a wealthy Richmonder who in the 1870s would produce a highly popular medical elixir called Valentine Meat Juice. He was the benefactor of the Valentine Museum. Hubard was introduced to many Richmonders through Valentine which helped his portrait business. 

Hubard experimented in a variety of art forms including early photography. In 1853, Hubard and Valentine teamed up with photographer Montgomery P. Simons (1816-1877) to produce a series of 30 daguerreotypes that explored the "passions" of man. 

Mann S. Valentine II as seen in one of the 30
daguerreotypes produced as part of the Passion series. 

At about the same time he helped produce the Passion series of daguerreotypes, Hubard became interested in making bronze duplicate statues of the Houdon statue of Washington. 

The General Assembly passed an act authorizing Hubard to
make casts of the Houdon statue in January of 1853,
The Daily Dispatch
An article detailing Hubard's life and work appeared in the Jan. 11, 1948 issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and described his work with the bronze statues.   
On this project he secured the blessing of the Virginia Legislature, which granted him the exclusive right, for seven years, to make three plaster casts from the original statue in the State Capitol. He made only two casts however, fearing a third might damage the Houdon marble. 
His reproduction of the statue occupied the greatest part of his time and interest, and took all his money, from 1853 to 1860. His letters and those of his friends reveal that severe financial difficulties were caused by this undertaking. 
Near his house [known as Rose Cottage] just outside the city limits, in the neighborhood of what is now the 1100 block of Grove Ave., he equipped a foundry where six bronze replicas of the Houdon state were finally cast after many misadventures. 
 – Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 11, 1948. 

Six bronze statues were made of Washington by Hubard.

Below is their story of which one of the six resided in Monroe Park for 12 years. 

Newspaper item gives us the detail that Hubard had made
a plaster copy of the Houdan statue of Washington by March of 1856. 

One of the bronze copies was placed on the grounds of the Virginia Military Institute - unveiled in 1856. After the occupation of Lexington during the American Civil War, it was temporarily relocated to Wheeling, West Virginia, and returned in 1866. You can view the statue HERE

A second copy was placed on the grounds of the North Carolina State Capitol in 1857. This sculpture replaced a marble sculpture of Washington by Antonio Canova that was destroyed when the North Carolina State Capitol building went up in flames in 1831. You can view this copy HERE.

A third copy is on the grounds of the South Carolina State House (installed in 1858). 

And now there were three remaining Washington bronze statues. The Civil War had started in 1860 thus making it harder for Hubard to sell them. 

Drew Carneal in his Richmond's Fan District (1996) discuses the statues and how Hubard died in 1862.

Carneal writes:

Unable to find buyers during these tumultuous years for his three remaining Washington statues, William J. Hubard had retooled his foundry to produce brass cannon and also had begun experimenting with explosives. His inexperience proved fatal. On the afternoon of 13 February 1862 an explosion shattered the quiet of Sydney. Hubard had left some powder drying on a stove, it ignited, detonating a bomb lying nearby. Mortally injured and with his coat afire, Hubard walked to his home where frantic efforts were made to save him. Despite the amputation of his left leg and attended by noted Confederate Sallie Tompkins, Hubard died two days later. After services at Saint James Church, this gifted man was buried in Hollywood Cemetery. It is reported that after Richmond fell his house was ransacked and many of his artistic works destroyed. In 1873, Mrs. Hubard, who had returned to Gloucester to live, sold the house, and it was demolished during the 1880s. (page 61-64).

Copy number four sits in Lafayette Park in St. Louis, Missouri.  It's history is recounted on a web site on the history of Lafayette Park. It states: 

The copy we have came to the park in a very circuitous way. An account in “The  Missouri Republican” states that Hubard placed the statue at an exhibition in St. Louis in 1860, hoping that the City Council would buy it at a price of $10,000. They did not and Hubard borrowed $5,000  using the statue as collateral. When he was unable to pay the note the statue was sold at auction to pay the debt and bought in by the lenders.

Another version, by George McCue in “Sculpture City”,  1988, states that Hubard’s widow  offered it for sale to the Missouri Legislature, which declined to purchase it, and it somehow became security for a loan and was sold to pay the debt. Then Charles Gibson, a prominent attorney who lived at 2050 Lafayette, directly across from the park, bought it and placed it in his yard. and later accepted an offer from the City to purchase it,

The “Report of the Board of Improvement of Lafayette Park, 1874,” states that the Board of Improvement bought it for the park. Charles Gibson was a member of the Board of Improvement from 1866 until 1871. The dedication was held May 15, 1869. Many prominent men who resided in houses facing the park contributed large sums  to enhance the park and it is reasonable to assume that Gibson was instrumental in acquiring it for the park.

Two bronze statues remained in the custody of Hubard's widow, Maria Mason Tabb Hubard. The fifth statue was the one that ended up in Monroe Park. More about that below. 

The sixth was purchased in 1884 and sits in the lobby of the New York City Hall

One of the original plaster casts that Hubard created of the Houdan marble statue has an interesting history. Today, it is being preserved and will be displayed in a new museum in Yorktown. Hubard's wife sold this plaster statue for $2,000 to the U. S. government and it sat in the Hall of Representatives at the U. S. Capitol for 80 years. It was then transferred to the Smithsonian Institution. In 2007 it was rescued from obscurity by the Library of Virginia and then given to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. 

Now, about the fifth statue - 

    In October of 1870, the statue was repaired (where was it stored?)
    - ready to be seen in public?

    Albert Ordway (who would build a house directly across from Monroe Park in 1870 where VCU's Johnson Hall now stands) read a communication from Maria M. Hubard (the artist's widow) which offered the city the fifth bronze statue for "preservation and care." Not a sale though - just lending it to the city. Ordway wants it in "Monroe Square" - what we now call Monroe Park. 

    By December of 1879, the city accepted the statue and ordered a pedestal to be made.  

    On June 14, 1871, the monument was unveiled in Monroe Park. 

    What was the location of the Washington Monument in Monroe Park?

    Image from the "Beers Illustrated atlas of the city of Richmond, Va.", 1877 - see the complete volume HERE

    Above is the Beers Atlas image combined with a recent Google Maps image. The monument seems to have been placed directly opposite of what is now the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart - possibly where the statue of Williams Carter Wickham stood from 1891 to 2020 in the park. 

    Removal of the statue.

    In this lengthy article published in the Daily Dispatch on August 2, 1883, it notes that the statue in Monroe Park had been sold by Hubard's widow,Maria Mason Tabb Hubard, to the University of Missouri. It remained there for some time before it was moved to several locations before ending up in 1920 at the Rotunda of Alumni Hall at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Miami University has a web page devoted to its complicated history and its travels after it was removed from Monroe Park. 

    This article (see below) also gives details that at one time the statue stood on the grounds of the state capitol before being moved to Monroe Park. It's worth reading:  

    The City thanks to "Mrs. Hubard" for the loan of the statue. I had heard that she asked the city to buy the statue and they said no - I need to check City records to find those details. 

    The statue was shipped from Richmond to Missouri on August 14, 1883. That ended its twelve year history in Monroe Park. 

    Here is the monument today that stood in Monroe Park - now in the Alumni Hall at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  


    William J. Hubard still resides in Richmond in Hollywood Cemetery. 

    The Washington Monument in Monroe Park, 1871-1883:

    This stereoview image of the statue in Monroe Park is the only known photographic image. If I come across more information and any more images of the Washington Monument in Monroe Park I'll add it to this blog post. Please let us know if you have any more information about the statue. 

    -- Ray B.


    Note: Details of Hubard's life are from a master's thesis by L. Theadore Batt entitled "The Graphic Works of William James Hubard" (1990) details his life and work and is available in VCU Libraries. Many of his paintings and papers daguerreotypes are housed in the Valentine Museum. Another good source is the exhibit catalog, "William James Hubard, 1807-1862; A Concurrent Survey and Exhibit, January, 1948" is also available in VCU Libraries.

    For more information about Monroe Park, read The Ghosts and Glories of Monroe Park: A Sesquicentennial History by David M. Clinger, published in 1998. David Clinger (1933-2016) was a kind man and very accomplished. Another wonderful source about the park is Drew St. John Carneal's Richmond Fan District (1996).  Carneal (1938-2015) was a gentleman whose research on the history and architecture of the Fan District is invaluable. Lastly, this report on Monroe Park which was published in 2008 and owes much of its work to two Richmond city planners, • Larry Miller, Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities and T. Tyler Potterfield, Department of Community Development. Potterfield was a good friend and one of the original editors of The Shockoe Examiner. If you are interested in Richmond history, you should acquire his Nonesuch Place: A History of the Richmond Landscape (2009).

    One last thanks is to Todd Woodson, Richmond native, drummer, activist, and all around good guy. He has worked for decades to help preserve Monroe Park and to make it better. Todd runs a Facebook public page called "Fans of Monroe Park" that is worth visiting. 

    - Ray