The city of Charlottesville began the process of removing the plinth bases of the Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson statues Tuesday morning.
Contractors from Team Henry Enterprises and Quarra Stone started to carefully remove pieces of the Lee statue base around 11 a.m.
Team Henry Enterprises removed the statues of Lee and Jackson on Saturday, as well as one of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Shoshone interpreter Sacagawea. The University of Virginia also contracted Team Henry to remove its statue of George Rogers Clark on Sunday.
City spokesman Brian Wheeler did not provide a removal schedule but said officials have marked off parking around Court Square and that these restrictions are set to last through Sunday.
According to a city press release, at Market Street Park, only brief traffic stops will be required to move equipment into the work zone. At Court Square Park, there will be a temporary closure of Fourth Street Northwest along the park’s western boundary.
Protective fencing has been placed to separate the public from the work zone. The public may view the progress of the removal of the stone bases from areas outside the work zone.
The exact schedule of the removal project is subject to change and may be impacted by weather and other site conditions.
Steven Rousseau, a supply chain director with Quarra Stone, said the process will probably take a few days and will depend on the structure of the bases.
“The process is very simple. But you’ve got to look at one piece of stone at a time. We have to go at it very carefully, very slowly,” he said.
Rousseau said the process depends on how tightly the grout is attached to the stone.
“Sometimes, the grip is still very, very strong and it’s still holding very tight to the stone. In this case here, the grout was kind of loose, so everything was very safe,” he said. “We’re talking about the big pieces of stone that are sitting together for us to find the right access to slowly wedge it, and give us some space to pass the straps and then lift the stone very carefully.”
Rousseau estimated that the bottom of the Lee statue base weighs about 10,000 pounds.
Rousseau said Quarra Stone dismantled the base of the George Rogers Clark statue and the process went relatively quickly.
“The one we did yesterday I think was 21 pieces. Took us a full day to do, which I think was quick,” he said.
Rousseau said part of the reason the workers have to be so careful is because the city will be storing the stone pieces of the base alongside the statues themselves until a decision is made about what will be done with the statues.
“The reason why Quarra Stone has been hired is because we’re stone specialists. If there is damage in the stone, we’re able to repair it,” he said.
Rousseau said he has tried to remain detached from the national news coverage about the statues, but he is still excited about being part of this historic event.
“Everybody’s pretty proud. The company is very proud to do this … it’s a great privilege,” he said. “We get bad recognition, as well, so we take the good when you have the good and try to forget about the bad things.”
The stone base of the Lewis-Clark-Sacagawea statue will not be removed this week. According to the city release, the exact schedule of its removal remains to be determined. The statue was moved to the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center at Darden Towe Park on land co-owned by the city with Albemarle County.