Looking Back: Lee Park

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In the 1920s, Charlottesville citizen and philanthropist, Paul Goodloe McIntire made several generous contributions to the city, including Lee Park located between Jefferson and Market Streets, east of First Street. This photograph, taken by Ralph Holsinger, shows Lee Park in the early 1920’s before the statue of R.E. Lee is erected. The photograph appears to have been taken from the newly-built Charlottesville National Bank Building on the corner of Main and Second, Street, N.E.

To the right, one can see the First Baptist Church built in 1905,  the Public Library (also funded by McIntire) built in 1921, and part of the Post Office and Federal Courthouse (now the central branch of JMRL) built in 1906. In the foreground, is the roof of Charlottesville Presbyterian Church. Note that the Methodist Church on Jefferson Street is not built yet, though it would be just a few short years later.

The absence of the Lee statue is significant because, although McIntire had commissioned sculptor Henry Shrady to produce it, Shrady’s failing health caused extended delays in the project which he never completed. It is reported that on his deathbed, Shrady exclaimed “Keep the canvas wet” in reference to the canvas covering his clay model of the Lee statue. Ultimately another sculptor, Leo Lentelli was hired to finish the project which was finally unveiled in 1924.

Paul Goodloe McIntire’s other contributions to the city include Jackson Park, the land for McIntire Park, the Lewis and Clark Monument, and the George Rogers Clark Monument near the University.

Photo Courtesy Holsinger Collection, Special Collections, UVA Library

This post was originally part of our Looking Back Series in the Daily Progress during the 250th Anniversary of Charlottesville in 2012. We will be reproducing and expanding on the Looking Back feature here on C’ville Images.

4 thoughts on “Looking Back: Lee Park

  1. This is a beautiful photo with the mountain in the distance and a great view of Preston Coiner Street! How many of the trees shown in Lee Park in this photo are still there today?

    • The park has many interesting specimens today but I’m not sure any of the trees visible in the photograph are among them. The oldest tree in the park today -that was likely standing then- is out of view to the left.

  2. Can’t tell much about the trees… my curiosity is stirred by the two structures in the middle of the Park. Any knowledge or guesses as to what they are?

    • In the very center of the park there is the pedestal that Lee and his horse, Traveller will later be put on. To the far left are the millstones that are still there in the park. I don’t see anything else there other than shadows of the trees.

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