Stretching fourteen blocks west from the heart of the Fan District at Lombardy Street to Roseneath Road, this boulevard includes six memorials to historically significant Virginians. The earliest design, attributed to civil engineer C.P.E. Burgwyn in 1888, proposed the extension of Franklin Street through a meadow west of downtown. Two years later sculptor Jean Antoine Mercie’s towering statue of General Robert E. Lee was sited within a 200-foot diameter traffic circle.
From 1890 through 1929, the avenue, promoted by real estate investors, was gradually extended one block to the east and thirteen blocks to the west as new structures, monuments, and plantings were added. Distinctive asphalt paving blocks distinguish the four-lane roadway which is lined with sugar maples and oaks. Grand townhouses, mansions, and churches flank the 140-foot wide tree-lined avenue which, in some places, includes a wide median planted with turf grass and an allée of flowering trees. Dwarfing many of the surrounding structures and situated at prominent intersections are memorials to J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Matthew Fountaine Maury by sculptors including Edward Virginius Valentine and Fred Moynihan. The 67-foot tall Jefferson Davis monument, designed by architect William C. Noland, is sited on the former location of Star Fort, Richmond’s innermost protection throughout the Civil War.
The avenue remained largely unchanged until 1996 when Paul DiPasquale designed and installed a monument to Arthur Ashe, Richmond-born tennis champion and African American civil rights leader. Monument Avenue was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.