Market Street Park

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Market Street Park overview map, ca. 2022
Overview of parks (McGuffey Park, Market Street Park, Court Square Park) located in the Downtown area, ca. 2022
Unhoused camping on park benches, October 5, 2022
View of park from East Market Street, March 2022
View of park focal point - looking north, March 2022 (Note: fire pit marks previous location of Robert E. Lee Statue & granite pedestal removed by city council in 2021.)
View of the Robert E. Lee Statue from East Market Street steps, ca. 2016 (statue removed by city council in 2021)

Market Street Park is an urban pocket park in the City of Charlottesville located at 101 East Market Street in the North Downtown Neighborhood. Covering slightly over 1.04 acres, the large equestrian monument of Robert Edward Lee mounted on his horse Traveler, by sculptor Henry Merwin Shrady, was the focal point of the park, unveiled at a ceremony on May 21, 1924. It was the last of three statues and the first of four parks that philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire gave to Charlottesville. The statue and base were removal in 2021. At the perimeter of the park are xeriscape garden plantings and ornamental trees, including dogwoods and a weeping cherry. The square shaped park is traversed by a system of formal and informal concrete walkways. Market Street Park is owned by the City of Charlottesville and is managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

In 1918, at the end of World War I, philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire wrote of his intention to donate the Park and Monument in memory of his parents, including his reflections on the chosen subject of the sculpture Robert E. Lee's use of "OUR DUTY." (In World War I, some 8,500,000 soldiers died as a result of wounds and/or disease, including Second Lieutenant George McIntire Baker (1881-1918) killed in action at Argonne Forest France - a major part of the final Allied offensive of World War I. A cenotaph in his honor was placed in the family plot at Maplewood Cemetery by his uncle, Paul Goodloe McIntire. McIntire was a recipient of the French Legion of Honor in 1929 for his founding of a children's tuberculosis hospital in France for refugees from the German-occupied north.)


Market Street Park contains all of the land bounded by Jefferson Street, First Street N.E., Market Street and Second Street N.E. Formerly known as Emancipation Park (2017-2018), formerly known as Lee Park (1922-2017), formerly known as McIntire Park (1917-1922)[1], formerly known as the Southall-Venable property (ca. 1860's-1917), it is a Charlottesville City Park, centrally located in downtown Charlottesville at 101 E. Market Street. On June 5, 2017, the City Council, led by Mayor Michael Signer, voted unanimously to change the park's name to Emancipation Park. The park was renamed on June 5, 2017. Council selected the newest name in 2018.[2]

A large equestrian monument of Robert Edward Lee mounted on his horse Traveler, by Henry Merwin Shrady (1871-1922); completed by Leo Lentelli (1879-1961), once the focal point of the park, was removed order of City Council on July 10, 2021.[citation needed] The statue is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[3] While working on the statue of Lee, Shardy continued his work on the sculpture of Lee's chief nemesis during the Civil War, Union general Grant; began in 1902, it was the largest ever commissioned by Congress at the time. His best-known sculpture, The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial sits at the base of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Shrady died, stressed and overworked on April 12, 1922, while still at work on the Lee project and two weeks before dedication of the Grant Memorial.

The city's comprehensive plan classifies the property as an 'urban' park.[4] 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.

History of park and statue donation

Paul Goodloe McIntire, a commodities trader and philanthropist, assembled several parcels of land, purchased and demolished existing buildings, developed the property and then deeded the land as Lee Park to the city in 1917 specifically in order to erect the statue of Lee; he donated the completed statue seven years later in 1924.[5]

On March 14, 1918, at the regular monthly meeting of the Common Council, Mayor E. G. Haden, transmitted to the Charlottesville City Council, 1916-1918 the following communication received from Paul G. McIntire: "New York, Feb. 25, 1918. Hon. E. G. Haden, Mayor, Charlottesville, Va. Dear Mr. Haden: It is a great pleasure to me that the City of Charlottesville accepted the Park and Monument in memory of my parents, and I feel that in the great crisis through which we are now passing that the thought of Lee will help us to do what he considered the noblest word in the English language, '“OUR DUTY”. I have the honor to remain, Sincerely yours, Paul G. McIntire." (Note: The Armistice was signed between France, Britain, and Germany on November 11, 1918, bringing four years of fighting in the First World War to an end. Robert E. Lee quote: "I believe it to be the duty of everyone to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony".)

An artist recommended to McIntire by celebrated American sculptor Daniel Chester French, Henry M. Shrady, created the original conception of the statue.[5] But Shrady died before casting it. His last words were “keep the canvas wet -- keep the canvas wet." His doctors and nurses thought he was delirious, but in fact he was entreating them to keep wet the canvas cover over his preliminary clay model of the Lee statue. Unfortunately over the next months the clay dried out, cracked, and the model was lost.[5]

Shrady was replaced by artist Leo Lentelli, who patterned the design of the sculpture on 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.”[5]

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. Walter D. Blair, architect, designed the granite pedestal for the statue. McIntire 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 Robert Edward Lee, because it was thought "any other wording or decoration would be superfluous."[5]

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 Alderman 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. And now, in this hour of reunion and reconciliation, we know how . . . he symbolized the future for us as it has come to pass, and bade us to live in it, in liberal and lofty fashion, with hearts unspoiled by hate and eyes clear to see the deeds of a new and mightier day.”[5]

Parking in Lee Park?

In 1948, the traffic committee of the Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Mayor Roscoe Adams suggesting that Lee Park and Jackson Park could be modified to accomodate spaces to alleviate a parking problem in downtown Charlottesville. The letter was read at Council's meeting on March 15, 1948 but Council took no action. City Attorney L.W. Waddell said the idea could present legal problems given McIntire's gift. Adams then mentioned he had heard of a possibility to construct parking spaces below the parks.[6]

The underground parking idea was still a concept in 1951 and subject of a Daily Progress editorial.[7]

Use of the park

Occupy Charlottesville members (future counselor Wes Bellamy standing at left of fire pit), 2011

The park has been the venue for many of Charlottesville's annual festivals, such as the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival, Pride Celebration, the Chocolate Festival hosted by the First Baptist Church, the Festival of Cultures, the Tom Tom Founders Festival, special events connected with the Dogwood Festival, and the Bow-wow walk hosted by the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA.[8]

A nativity was held in the park every beginning in 1954.[9]

The park has also been the site of protests. The group Occupy Charlottesville began a protest campaign in mid-October 2011 which involved setting up tents. The city granted a series of permits allowing the occupation which expired on November 24, 2011.[10] The ongoing occupation prompted questions whether the city showed favoritism by allowing the group to stay in the park so long.[11] The city evicted protestors on November 30, 2011 and 18 people were arrested.[12]

Controversy about moving statue

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.[13] The proposal was met with considerable backlash from the community, who view the statue as an important part of history.[14][15] More recently, in March 2016 the issue of moving Confederate statues was revived.[16][17]

August 12, 2017 "Unite the Right" rally

  • February 6, 2017 – City Council votes 3-2 to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee and to add context to statue of Stonewall Jackson. [18] [19]
  • May 30, 2017Jason Kessler filed a Special Event Application Request with the City, seeking a permit to hold a demonstration at Emancipation Park on August 12, 2017 - an event he dubbed “Unite The Right” on social media. His permit described the event as a “free speech rally in support of the Lee Monument” and estimated that 400 participants would attend.[18] [20]Many citizens called for the city to revoke the permit out of public safety concerns stemming from perceived threats of violence from many scheduled to attend the rally.[21]

2018 reconsideration of the new name

Local resident Mary Carey expressed displeasure with the name, as it did not reflect the community's input and continued to center slavery. Carey felt that "Emancipation Park" was a blunt reminder of slavery, and bitterly ironic, considering "Emancipation" Park had been created for the specific purpose of housing a statue of someone who fought against emancipating the enslaved. She submitted a petition asking Council to reconsider it. They chose to do so on February 20, 2018.[2][22]

Local Voices, Local History

VIDEO CREDITS: Narrated by Preston Coiner;
Graphic design: Jen Fleischer; Project Manager: Kristin Rourke.


  2. 2.0 2.1 Web. Charlottesville City Council to revisit downtown park monikers, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, February 20, 2018, retrieved February 21, 2018.
  3. National Register of Historic Places id #64500682, Four Monumental Figurative Outdoor Sculptures in Charlottesville
  4. Web. Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 10, City of Charlottesville, Charlottesville, Virginia, retrieved October 19, 2010.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Robert Kuhlthau, Preliminary Notes on the Robert E. Lee Statue, 20 September 1995, (on deposit Albemarle Historical Society, Monuments file).
  6. Web. Study Of Park Use For Auto Parking Urged On Council, Staff Reports, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, March 16, 1948, retrieved December 12, 2016 from University of Virginia Library. Print. March 16, 1948 page 3.
  7. Web. The Lee Park Parking Proposal, Staff Reports, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, retrieved December 9, 2016 from University of Virginia Library. Print. May 23, 1951 page 4.
  8. Park events
  9. Web. Gentry To Head Lee Park Board, Staff Reports, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, March 15, 1962, retrieved June 10, 2017 from University of Virginia Library. Print. March 15, 1962 page 21.
  10. Web. Occupiers face balancing act with some who've joined in, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, November 5, 2011, retrieved November 7, 2011.
  11. 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.
  12. Web. Officials hear 'death knell' of Occupy Charlottesville, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, December 1, 2011, retrieved December 5, 2011.
  13. Web. Historian talks Civil War as councilor wonders if statues should be torn down, Ted Strong, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, March 22, 2012, retrieved March 29, 2012.
  14. Web. Szakos decries response to statue comments, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, retrieved August 22, 2012.
  15. Web. City's Civil War statues remind us of our past, Daily Progress, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, March 27, 2012, retrieved August 22, 2012.
  16. Web. Debate over role of Charlottesville's Confederate statues reignites, Bryan McKenzie, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, retrieved March 22, 2016.
  17. Web. Movement afoot to remove Lee statue in Charlottesville, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, March 22, 2016, retrieved March 29, 2012.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Web. FINAL REPORT INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF THE 2017 PROTEST EVENTS IN CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA, Hunton & Williams LLP, December 1, 2017, retrieved December 1, 2019.
  19. Web. Self-Proclaimed White Activist Holds Presser Ahead of Controversial Rally, NBC 29, July 11, 2017, retrieved July 19, 2017.
  20. Web. Self-Proclaimed White Activist Holds Presser Ahead of Controversial Rally, NBC 29, July 11, 2017, retrieved July 19, 2017.
  21. Web. Free speech v. safety: Calls mount for rally permit revocation, Courteney Stuart, News Article, Charlottesville Newsplex, July 18, 2017, retrieved July 19, 2017.
  22. Web. City Council holds public hearing on renaming of Emancipation, Justice Parks, Jake Gold, News Article, Cavalier Daily, February 21, 2018, retrieved February 21, 2018.

See also

List of statues, monuments, and war memorials

External links