Unveiling of Stonewall Jackson Monument, October 19, 1921.
(Photo by Rufus Holsinger)Holsinger Studio Collection (#9862),
Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library
Court Square Park (formerly known as Jackson Park) is a landscaped square of approximately 17,540 square feet that lies within the boundaries of the Charlottesville and Albemarle County Courthouse National Register Historic District. The park sits on the former site of McKee Row, a rowdy area just west of the Albemarle County Courthouse. Due to numerous complaints about the ramshackle housing on McKee Row and the fact that boys from the area were "hanging around the Levy Opera House," the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in 1914 "... to give the city the street adjacent to the courthouse between Jefferson and High Streets." The 30-foot wide dirt alley, used principally for horse sales and hitching racks, was offered on the condition that the city should purchase "the old McKee property" and "erect on it a public school for white children." Letters objecting to the construction of a school near the courthouse poured in to the local newspaper, the Daily Progress, nevertheless the City of Charlottesville acquired title to the street without taking any further action.
A few years later, Paul Goodloe McIntire offered to buy the McKee property if the city would permit the street to become part of a park in which to locate his proposed sculpture of Stonewall Jackson. This sculpture was the second of three pieces he gave to the City of Charlottesville. On January 19, 1919, the McKee property was deeded to the City of Charlottesville with the understanding that the area would never be used other than for a park and that no other monument except Jackson's would ever be placed on the property.
The houses on McKee Row (Holsinger Photo, above) were demolished and a plan for Court Square Park (formerly known as Jackson Park) was developed by architect Walter Blair. On August 1, 1919, while development of the park was underway, McIntire contracted with sculptor Charles Keck to create the sculpture of Stonewall Jackson. Keck's work reflected the figurative style and historic bent of the National Sculpture Society during the defunct City Beautiful Movement of the early twentieth century. The City Beautiful Movement called for well-designed and attractive public spaces as a way of creating unity and beauty within urban centers.
Keck agreed to complete the Jackson sculpture by August 1921, at a total cost of $35,000. To prepare accurate sketches for the horse, he came to Albemarle County to study Virginia-bred horses and "the Virginia seat in the saddle." A Charlottesville horseman is reported to have demonstrated the finer points of horsemanship for Keck on McIntire's favorite riding horse.
When the marble pedestal was being erected in Court Square Park (formerly known as Jackson Park), a new controversy developed. A group of citizens believed that the "Jackson statue should face north, not from sentiment, but on account of the lay of the land and prospective Court Square improvements." Work was stopped while McIntire was consulted. Upon receiving McIntire's simple telegraph stating, "I think it best to leave statue facing south," work resumed.
It was McIntire's wish that the local chapters of the Confederate Veterans, Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy should plan the celebration exercise for the unveiling of the Jackson monument. The statue was presented to the City of Charlottesville on October 19, 1921, during a Confederate reunion. The city was brightly decorated and bands played as Colonel Thomas S. Keller led a parade of some 5,000 persons through the streets, stopping at Midway Plaza where school children formed a living representation of the Confederate flag. A large crowd then followed the parade to Jackson Park for the unveiling ceremony. The monument was unveiled by Anna Jackson Preston, the great-great-granddaughter of Stonewall Jackson and the daughter of Julia Jackson Preston of Charlottesville.
At first some local horsemen criticized the sculpture's proportions, stating that the figure of the horse appeared small for the tall figure of Jackson. However, Jackson is reported to have intensely disliked riding on horseback and when required to do so, chose only small, smooth-gaited animals. Keck's Little Sorrel is thus accurate in size as well as proportion. At the time of the art work unveiling in 1921, the Jackson monument was considered by many to be among the finest equestrian sculptures in the nation. Paul McIntire was more reserved in his judgement. He is said to have commented that he never could judge the whole work, because he only saw his favorite riding horse, which served as the model for "Little Sorrel."
Statue of Stonewall Jackson
The Park in Present Times
Court Square Park (formerly known as Jackson Park) was renovated using both private and capital improvement funds in 1971-1972 and has been essentially unchanged since that time. The original park improvements were designed by Floyd E. Johnson of the architectural firm of Johnson, Craver and Gibson.
The park consists of six flower beds that edge the corners and entry ways into the park. These flower beds contain seasonal planting of spring bulbs, summer annuals, and fall chrysanthemums. Currently, the bulbs growing in the beds are a Double Early Mix. Double Early tulips bloom before any of the long stemmed varieties and a little later than Single Early tulips. The short stems of the Double Early Mix help them stand up to our strong, gusty spring winds. In addition, their size makes them an excellent choice for planting in beds and around borders. The seasonal plantings in these beds change from year to year.
The landscape surrounding the statue consists of an Ilex hedge bordering a planting of floribunda rose "Apricot Nectar", which was the All American Rose Selection winner in 1966. The rose has soft apricot-colored blooms with a heavy fragrance. These roses were planted in 1980 and continue to thrive today with minimal maintenance.
Trees of interest include the large pin oaks (Quercus phellos), red oaks (Quercus rubra), and maples (Acer rubrum) that serve as a dividing line between Jackson Park and the Albemarle County Courthouse to the east. Also of interest is the Yoshino cherry tree (Prunus x yedoensis) given to the City by the Shelter for Help in Emergency (SHE). The tree honors survivors of domestic violence and also memorializes those who have died as a result of this abuse.
If you would like to assist in the maintenance of this and/or other City parks, please check out our Volunteers and Donor programs.
Invitation to the Unveiling of the Stonewall Jackson Monument
Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library
The City of Charlottesville wishes to thank and acknowledge:
The Charlottesville Daily Progress (newspaper);
The United States Department of the Interior, National Park Services, National Register of Historic Places, Thomas Jonathan Jackson Sculpture, Albemarle County