Abingdon’s Confederate soldier monument sits in pieces on a flatbed trailer in the back parking lot of the Washington County, Virginia, Government Center, waiting for its new resting place to be prepared.
The statue was removed from the courthouse lawn this past weekend after 80 years to make way for a courthouse expansion project.
Erected in 1907 at the center of Main Street in Abingdon, the monument — with a soldier holding a rifle — was first moved in the late 1930s to the courthouse lawn. That move was necessary “because cars kept hitting it,” Washington County Supervisor Charlie Hargis said. “It did not hurt the statue, but it did hurt the cars.”
Earlier this year, the Washington County Board of Supervisors agreed to spend approximately $150,000 — on a motion by Hargis — to move the monument and establish a new park to make way for an expansion of the Washington County Courthouse.
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On Saturday, to the surprise of the supervisors, construction workers loaded the monument in pieces on a flatbed truck and traveled about 3 miles to the parking lot of the Government Center building near Virginia Highlands Community College.
There, the monument will find a new home in a park behind the building.
“None of the supervisors knew that it was going to be moved that day,” Hargis said.
It was only known that the monument would have been moved “on a weekend,” County Administrator Jason Berry said.
“It’s a monument to the Confederate veterans. It’s not a monument to the Confederacy,” Hargis said, justifying why the county is keeping the monument while 73 other Confederate monuments in Virginia have been removed or renamed. “It’s not in any way glorifying the Confederacy. It was glorifying the veterans who came from Washington County.”
Concrete has now been poured at the new site where the monument will eventually stand behind the Government Center. Next comes the relocation of the statue and a shorter monument dedicated to the county’s Confederate generals. Both are being placed in the new park where four trees now stand, according to Berry.
“We’re looking forward to having a real nice park in there,” Hargis said. “And it’s not going to happen overnight.”
The park is expected to be completed by June 1, Kevin Hill, the director of general services for Washington County, said.
Along the way, Hargis hopes to repurpose the monument of the Confederate soldier to be a tribute “to the common soldier.”
In turn, Berry says plans call for erecting interpretive signs that will explain the history of the soldier monument and Washington County’s role in the Civil War.
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