Of­fi­cial: Spe­cial des­ig­na­tions won’t block Lee statue re­moval

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NEWS - BY ALI SUL­LI­VAN Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch asul­li­van@times­dis­patch.com

Though the Robert E. Lee statue is listed on na­tional and state his­toric reg­is­ters, such des­ig­na­tions shouldn’t block its re­moval from Rich­mond’s Mon­u­ment Av­enue, a state of­fi­cial said.

Amid the past week’s un­rest over sys­temic racism, Gov. Ralph Northam con­firmed Thurs­day that his ad­min­is­tra­tion will make plans to re­move the statue in com­ing weeks. It sits on a cir­cle of sta­te­owned land along the his­toric boule­vard through the city’s Fan District.

The news raised ques­tions about whether the mon­u­ment’s des­ig­na­tion on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places and the Virginia Land­marks Reg­is­ter may stand in the way of its re­moval. Mon­u­ment Av­enue it­self is fur­ther des­ig­nated as a Na­tional His­toric Land­mark district.

But Julie Lan­gan, direc­tor and state his­toric preser­va­tion of­fi­cer of the Virginia Depart­ment of His­toric Re­sources, said the list­ings have no bear­ing on the statue’s po­ten­tial re­moval.

“All of those des­ig­na­tions are hon­orific, and none of them bring with them any pro­tec­tion or re­quire­ments of a prop­erty,” Lan­gan said.

The Na­tional Park Ser­vice, which ad­min­is­ters the fed­eral reg­is­ter, re­ferred ques­tions about the mon­u­ment’s sta­tus to Lan­gan.

The Lee statue, which was un­veiled in 1890 dur­ing the Jim Crow era, was added to the Virginia Land­marks Reg­is­ter in

2006 and the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places in 2007. The des­ig­na­tions rec­og­nized the “out­stand­ing artis­tic quality” of French sculp­tor Mar­ius Jean An­tonin Mer­cié’s de­sign.

Ac­cord­ing to the Northam ad­min­is­tra­tion, the statue will be moved to a ware­house for stor­age, and pub­lic in­put will be gath­ered to de­cide its ul­ti­mate fate. That de­ci­sion, Lan­gan said, might jeop­ar­dize the mon­u­ment’s place on the na­tional and state reg­is­ters.

She added that the re­moval of four other Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues on Mon­u­ment Av­enue — which Rich­mond Mayor Le­var Stoney will soon pro­pose to the City Coun­cil — could prompt the Na­tional Park Ser­vice to re-eval­u­ate Mon­u­ment Av­enue as a Na­tional His­toric Land­mark.

The Lee mon­u­ment is con­sid­ered a “con­tribut­ing re­source” to the Mon­u­ment Av­enue district, and the thor­ough­fare’s Na­tional His­toric Land­mark sta­tus is “the ul­ti­mate” des­ig­na­tion a prop­erty can ob­tain, Lan­gan said. To earn the sta­tus, the prop­erty must be rec­og­nized by the U.S. sec­re­tary of the in­te­rior as hav­ing na­tional sig­nif­i­cance — that is, “ex­cep­tional value in rep­re­sent­ing or il­lus­trat­ing an im­por­tant theme in the his­tory of the na­tion,” ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Park Ser­vice.

By con­trast, prop­er­ties on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places tend to bear sig­nif­i­cance pri­mar­ily within their states or lo­cal­i­ties. Of about 95,000 en­tries on the reg­is­ter, fewer than 3,000 are fur­ther dis­tin­guished as Na­tional His­toric Land­marks.

Ac­cord­ing to Lan­gan, even if the Lee mon­u­ment were it­self des­ig­nated as a Na­tional His­toric Land­mark, it still could be taken down.

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