The Richmond History Podcast

Friday, March 16, 2012

Henry Clay Gets Around

Henry Clay Monument on the VA Capital Square w/ St Paul's in the back ground

Near the  Edgar Allen Poe Statue on the Virginia State Capital Grounds, once stood a statue of Henry Clay, with a gazebo type structure protecting it.  The helpful folks that work in the Capital Visitors Center told me some interesting things about it.   
map of Capital Square from about 1877
Joel Tanner Harts, Henry Clay, photo by Jeff Majer
Led by Lucy Maria Barbour, the widow of Governor James Barbour, the Virgina Association of Ladies was formed in 1844 to build a monument to Clay, partly raising the money through bake sales.  

Clay was born in Hanover County, VA and studied law in Richmond, VA, with George Wythe before moving to Kentucky, were he would make his name and gain respect as "The Great Compromiser", and make three unsuccessful campaigns for the Presidency.

The statue was unveiled on April 12, 1860, on what would have been his 83rd birthday, had he not passed in 1852.  It is ironic because Clay postponed the Civil War with the Great Compromise of 1850, and 1 year and 5 days after his statue  was unveiled, VA seceded from the Union.

Governor John Pollard's portrait in the Capital

The beautiful marble statue was unveiled with out the cover.  Maybe more time should have been spent on the cast iron structure because, by 1930, it was in such bad shape that Governor John Garland Pollard decided to take it down.  It would not be good if instead of sheltering Clay it fell on him.

When he was moved inside he was put in the corner of the Old Hall of the House of Delegates where people couldn't get very close. He wasn't in great shape after being outside for more then 70 years exposed to weather and vandals.  In fact his finger was broken but has since been fixed.  One of the docents told me it was not uncommon for people to ask "Why is there a statue of Johnny Carson?" when looking at Clay.  I can see why.

Clay has had a very prominent spot since 2008.  He greets you as you go through security.  The likeness of Clay is well worth the price of admission,  which is free.  That nonexistent fee includes a tour, Jean-Antoine Houdon's statue of George Washington and the building it self, maybe the best part. If you don't want to take the tour you can do as my friend Chris Dove, from Ravenchase, and I did and just wander around.  There are people all over the building that are eager to help.

Joel Tanner Hart's Henry Clay looking very Johnny Carson, photo by Jeff Majer

For more information on touring the Capital click.

To follow this blog on Facebook click.
To follow this blog on Twitter @historyreplays click.

1 comment:

  1. Simply wish to say your posting is as surprising. The clarity inside your publish is just nice and i can assume you are an specialist on this topic. Good together with your permission let me to use your Feed to keep up-to-date with future post. Thanks a million as well as please keep on the great function.
    Large Marble Statues