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Robert E. Lee Richmond statue pedestal to be removed, crews still on lookout for 134-year-old time capsule

Preliminary steps will begin on Monday, but the full removal is expected to be complete by the last day of the year.

RICHMOND, Va. — The last bits of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue that stood in Richmond for more than a century are to be removed this December, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Sunday. Before its initial removal began, it was the largest Confederate monument in the country.

The last part to be removed is the pedestal that the bronze general and his horse stood upon. The removal comes as part of a plan reached with the city of Richmond to give the state-owned land to the city. 

Preliminary steps will begin on Monday, but the full removal is expected to be complete by the last day of the year.

“This land is in the middle of Richmond, and Richmonders will determine the future of this space,” said Gov. Northam via a Sunday press release. “The Commonwealth will remove the pedestal and we anticipate a safe removal and a successful conclusion to this project.”

The statue was removed in September 2021 after the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the state which wanted to take down the monument. The governor had been working towards the removal since June. 

The pedestal isn’t the only component that crews hope to haul away. The much-anticipated discovery of a 134-year-old time capsule is also on the table. If the 1887 time capsule is recovered during the disassembly process, the state has said that it will remain under the control of the Commonwealth and will also be removed for its preservation.

Crews in Virginia spent hours searching for the capsule in September, but came up empty-handed after removing more than half a dozen large, heavy stones; it was still nowhere to be found. 

According to reporting by the Associated Press, a newspaper article from 1887 suggests the copper time capsule contains mostly memorabilia, including a U.S. silver dollar and a collection of Confederate buttons. But one line from that article has piqued the interest of historians. Listed among the artifacts is a “picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin.”

Gov. Northam’s chief of staff, Clark Mercer, said workers planned to return to put the stones back in place and to insert a new time capsule in the cornerstone. The new time capsule was said to contain items reflective of current events, including an expired vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, a Black Lives Matter sticker and a photograph of a Black ballerina with her fist raised near the Lee statue during last summer’s protests in Richmond, the AP reported. 

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