Historic home in Southwest Virginia hopes to house rejected monuments

Local

RUSSELL COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – A local foundation out of Southwest Virginia has plans to preserve Confederate monuments that have been removed from around the City of Richmond this year.

The Ratcliffe Foundation submitted a proposal to Richmond City officials requesting all or some of the monuments be relocated to one of its historic homes in Russell County, “Ellenbrook.”

Construction on Ellenbrook began in 1855 with completion of the brick home in 1858. In the mid-1870s, the home was purchased by William Alexander Stuart and now holds a number of Stuart family heirlooms, as well as other pieces of Russell County history.

“It’s some of the history of Russell County that was preserved by one of the earlier settlers, William Alexander Stuart, who established a cattle company here,” said Sam Varney, a caretaker of Ellenbrook.

Sam and his wife, Martha, work for the foundation and in 2011 became the caretakers of the home following its full restoration. The home is open to the public as a museum of Russell County history on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. There is no cost, but donations are welcome.

Varney said in a good year, they’ll see over 400 visitors to the home where they can view artifacts and receive a tour of the first floor of the home.

The property sits on 4,500 acres, and according to Varney, it’s plenty of land to put these monuments on.

When he was informed of the proposal, Varney said he agreed with the idea that these monuments needed to be preserved and believes Ellenbrook would make the perfect home.

Tucker Davis, a volunteer with the Ratcliffe Foundation, also agrees with the proposal.

Davis said he’s been following the removal of these monuments across the Southeast United States and said he watched a livestream of the Stonewall Jackson monument coming down.

That’s when he said enough is enough.

He said he reached out to the foundation regarding a plan to preserve the monuments being removed around Richmond only to find that this wasn’t a new idea, but something the foundation was already considering.

Growing up in Southwest Virginia and being familiar with the Ellenbrook home, he said he believes this property is the best place for these monuments. He said the monuments removed are currently being tossed aside and forgotten, and that’s no way to treat them.

“With a tarp over them, laying on their side, I don’t think that’s an appropriate place for 150-year-old pieces of public art to be, and we want to preserve them, protect them and restore them,” said Davis.

The caretakers of the home, alongside foundation members and volunteers, hope it can hold more than just the history of the county it resides in. They hope the proposal to take on these rejected monuments and preserving them for people to see in the years to come will be approved.

Varney also believes it will drive tourism to this rural area of Southwest Virginia.

While the foundation and Davis understand the pain some of these pieces have caused, they don’t believe that means they should be destroyed.

“If you erase your history, you’re doomed to repeat it and I think when you look at that, life is a pretty dull and sterile existence if you’re erasing every element of your past or of your history that makes you feel uncomfortable,” said Davis.

According to Davis, other groups have submitted similar proposals, but to the Ratcliffe Foundation, preservation of these monuments is their number one goal.

The full proposal is shown below:

Davis said the Richmond City Council has been in contact with the head of the foundation regarding this proposal, but there has been no word on a timeline or the status of their request.

News Channel 11 reached out to the Richmond City Council’s chief of staff regarding a statement on the status of the Ratcliffe Foundation’s proposal and has yet to receive a comment back.

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