Jeb Stuart's name still lives along Monument Avenue despite his statue being removed in 2020. But if neighboring religious institutions have their way, it won't be for long.
"We, as a church, feel very strongly about the need for racial healing in Richmond," says Jeffrey Jacobs, lay leader and Church Council president of St. John's United Church at 503 Stuart Circle, where the initiative to change the Stuart name began (St. John's was also a consistent advocate for the monument's removal). "We came to a consensus here at the church that, once the Stuart statue was removed, that it would make sense as part of that process to remove the street name."
Jacobs, who is also an attorney, brought the notion to the other religious institutions that make up The Stuart Circle Parish Council, a coalition of different denominations and groups that share proximity to the thoroughfare. In addition to St. John's, SCPC is represented by: Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Cathedral of Sacred Heart, Circle Center Adult Day Services, First English Lutheran Church, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, The Pace Center, and St. James’s Episcopal Church. The council's mission statement, in part, stresses "a particular focus on community need and advocacy for those who are marginalized and in need of support."
"As a group of faith-based churches, we have the mission of promoting healing and reconciliation in the community," says Nancy Warman, director of servant ministry at St. James Church, and the president of the SCPC. "Changing the name is a decision that has been reached by the individual representatives of the churches."
- Scott Elmquist
- The equestrian statue of Gen. Jeb Stuart being removed on July 7, 2020 after having stood there for 113 years.
Warman and Jacobs say that the council is in the process of reaching out to affected residents along Stuart Circle and getting their approval. The process for changing the name of a "city facility" – which includes roads – requires that at least 51% of property owners sign off on any new name.
"It's been quite an interesting educational process," Jacobs says. Once they get community approval, the council will submit the position to their city councilperson, [2nd District’s] Katherine Jordan, and the matter will require city council's approval. "There could be some fairly small costs involved," he says. "But no [new] signage would be required." He adds that he also reached out to civic organizations such as the Fan District Association, the Fan Area Business Alliance and the Monument Avenue Preservation Society, all of which, he says, have declined to either oppose or support the name change. [The Fan District Association's president Rebecca Keller sent an email stating that its board "has not discussed the topic so cannot speak to a position either way."]
"We are doing our due diligence with the community. In reality, there will always be people who are opposed," says Warman. "But we're hoping that more people will be in favor and it won't be an issue."
What about the new name? So far, she says, the choice is Lombardy Circle. "There were several names that came up but we seem to like it the best. Whether or not we'll stick with it, I don't know, but it's more geographical and since Stuart Circle eventually becomes Lombardy Street, it just makes sense."