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Virginia Beach's Confederate monument will remain in storage while the city weighs relocation options

Virginia Beach's Confederate monument, as seen wrapped for storage on June 12, 2020.

STEPHEN M. KATZ/TNS

By ALISSA SKELTON | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: March 17, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — Virginia Beach’s Confederate monument will remain in storage while the city weighs two pitches to relocate the statue.

Local Confederacy nonprofits and a Civil War battleground in the Shenandoah Valley are vying for the opportunity to take the monument off the city’s hands, but the council isn’t impressed with either option.

On Tuesday, a few members of the council said they would like to keep the statue in the area rather than relocating it 250 miles away.

But there’s one problem with that plan — the local groups want the city to foot the bill for site preparation, relocation of the monument and for ongoing care and insurance of the monument.

Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson said she’s hesitant to commit the city to a long-term obligation to property the city would no longer own.

“A lot of people would be unhappy to see it go all the way across the state,” Wilson said. “Yet, the group here seems to be asking for a whole lot of support that I am not sure that the citizens would like for us to do that much.”

City Manager Patrick Duhaney said staff will attempt to negotiate with the local groups to see if they will take on more of the costs and responsibility for the monument.

For now, the monument will remain in storage, where it’s been located since July 25 after the council voted to remove it from city grounds at the Municipal Center, near the intersection of Princess Anne and North Landing roads. It’s possible the city could keep it in storage long-term, and Mayor Bobby Dyer asked staff to let council know if that will negatively impact the statue and lead to restoration costs down the road.

Activists held protests across the state last year calling for the removal of the Confederate monuments. The Confederacy fought to preserve slavery and monuments honoring those soldiers were erected after the Civil War ended between 1890 and the 1920s. The Virginia Beach monument was placed outside of the courthouse, a former site where slaves were once sold.

Virginia Beach relocated its monument soon after a new state law took effect July 1 stating cities could remove memorials for war veterans, which had previously been prohibited, Reed said. The city was required by law to accept relocation proposals from museums, historical society, government or military battlefields.

City staff who evaluated the two proposals received last fall did not reach a consensus on where the monument should go, according to Mark Reed, a historic preservation planner for the city.

The first proposal is from local nonprofit groups — The Princess Anne United Daughters of the Confederacy Chapter 435 and Princess Anne Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 484 — that helped sponsor the dedication of the monument in 1905, when the statue of a Confederate soldier was erected outside of the then-Princess Anne County Courthouse.

Reed said the Confederate groups asked the city to relocate the monument and prepare their proposed site, which would be located on private property in the southern part of the city. Additionally, they requested the city install a locked gate at the entrance to the site, a ten-foot-high wrought iron fence around the monument, security cameras, and a driveway and parking area. They also asked the city to take care of the monument and insure it.

The second group is the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, which provides visitor services to 20 Civil War battlefields and other related historic sites. In 1996, Congress designated eight Virginia counties as the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District to preserve Civil War battlefields.

The battlefields are located 250 miles away and in a location that has very little connection to the Confederate troops from Princess Anne County, Reed said. This group agreed to take full ownership and responsibility of the monument but asked the city for a one-time payment of $2,500 for a perpetual care fund.

The organization would provide trucks, personnel, rigging, insurance, and road permits to enable rigging contractors hired by the city to load the monument. But local descendants of Princess Anne’s soldiers do not prefer this option, Reed said.

alissa.skelton@pilotonline.com

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The Virginia Beach Confederate monument, in a 1988 photo.
VIRGINIAN-PILOT FILE PHOTO