Monroe Park, bounded by West Franklin, Laurel, West Main, and Belvidere streets, is a handsome urban oasis with a leafy canopy of huge trees. It is surrounded by some of the city's most eclectic buildings and serves as green space for landlocked Virginia Commonwealth University, which shares its upkeep with the city of Richmond.
The current configuration of the park dates from 1871, when nearby property owners prevailed upon the city to grade the site, pave pathways, and plant trees. The following year, a fountain was erected, which has subsequently been replaced by a four-tier cast iron fountain (c. 1903, J. W. Fiske Casting Company). The area surrounding the park became one of the most stylish addresses as Richmond's residential neighborhoods developed westward past Belvidere. The history of Monroe Park, however, dates back to 1851, when the city established a number of green spaces at the city's four edges to ensure “invigorating air” for its citizens. At first, this park was called Western Square, but it was soon renamed Monroe Square because it abutted Monroe Ward. By 1853, the space was being used for cattle shows and, by decade's end, full-fledged agricultural fairs. During the Civil War the square was used as a Confederate drill ground and eventually as space for barracks and hospital facilities. By the 1870s, the site was forlorn and ready for renewal as a public park. In addition to the fountain and a bandstand, the square contains a number of monuments commemorating leading citizens and historic events, including those for the Confederate William Carter Wickham (1891, Edward Valentine, sculptor) and the Richmond industrialist Joseph Bryan (1911, William Couper, sculptor).
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