Facing the legacy of Paul Goodloe McIntire

The gifts he bestowed on the Charlottesville community and their contentious meaning

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The Robert E. Lee statue (left) and Stonewall Jackson statue (right) were funded by McIntire. 

Hannah Mussi | Cavalier Daily

Paul Goodloe McIntire, one of the University’s most prominent benefactors, was born in Charlottesville in 1860, as the country was on the verge of the Civil War. McIntire’s ties to his hometown spurred him to return to Charlottesville after making his fortune as a coffee trader in Chicago and a stockbroker in New York City. His legacy rests in the numerous institutions and public spaces he funded, including the contentious statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The motivations for his gifts and what they represent are topics of debate today.  

McIntire’s University connections

After spending much of his adult life in Chicago and New York City, McIntire came back to Charlottesville to retire from the business world, and the burgeoning University captured his attention. Though he did not graduate from the University — he dropped out after one semester to start his career — McIntire gave almost $750,000 to the University over the course of his lifetime.

“He was very interested in U.Va. and particularly the work of Edwin Alderman, who was the president,” said William Wilkerson, an associate professor at the McIntire School of Commerce. “Alderman was interested in building U.Va. as a national institution, and McIntire supported that.”

McIntire’s personal ties to the University also influenced his decision to donate so much of his accumulated wealth. 

“He grew up in Charlottesville, spent all of his childhood here and had known of the University and its activities during his youth and spent one semester at the University as a student, but decided that was not the thing for him,” said Margaret O'Bryant, a librarian and head of reference resources at Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society. “He really wanted to go directly into some activity in business himself, which he did, and did well over the period of his career.”

As a businessman, McIntire was interested in the studies of economics and finance. He endowed the McIntire School of Commerce in 1921, whose undergraduate and graduate business programs offer classes in accounting, global commerce, management in information technology and more. 

McIntire was also passionate about the fine arts, a focus that can be recognized in the aesthetic qualities of many of his contributions. He endowed the McIntire Department of Music and the McIntire Department of Art. He also funded the construction of the McIntire Amphitheater, which was meant to be an outdoor performance space. 

O’Bryant said that McIntire’s extensive travels in the United States and Europe caused him to deeply appreciate the arts, and inspired him to share his interests with University students and the rest of the Charlottesville community. 

“I think that he wanted to give significant gifts to his home community and the University as part of that community to promote appreciation of these things and to enable other people — certainly other people didn't have the means and the wherewithal that he did — to enjoy these things,” O’Bryant said.

McIntire’s “City Beautiful” movement

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the urban population in the United States experienced rapid growth. As the cities grew more congested, there was a pressing need for open spaces that would allow for public recreation. 

The “City Beautiful” movement gained momentum during this time with a method for urban planning that focused on the development of parks and other architectural elements to enhance the city’s atmosphere, such as classical facades and grand statues. These architectural statements were meant to be sources of beauty as well as inspiration. 

“This was an architectural and design movement that sought to bring beauty to cities in order to promote ‘moral and civic virtue’ among the urban population,” University Genealogical Resources Specialist Jean Cooper said in an email to The Cavalier Daily.

This movement was spearheaded in cities like Chicago, where McIntire lived and worked for years. McIntire brought this idea to Charlottesville and played a major role in transforming the city’s architectural landscape.

“After the Civil War, there wasn’t much money in the South, so we were kind of late getting on the bandwagon,” Wilkerson said. “But you can go around to cities like Chicago and St. Louis and look at what they did during the period to create urban green spaces.”

McIntire funded the construction of five parks during his time in Charlottesville, all of which remain today. Lee Park, which is now called Emancipation Park, was created in 1917, followed by Jackson Park — now Justice Park — in 1919. Belmont Park was established in 1921, and McIntire Park was established in the early 1930s. Washington Park, named after Booker T. Washington, was created in 1926 as a park for the African-American community.

University Protocol and History Officer Sandy Gilliam says that McIntire was one of the first philanthropists to attempt to embellish his city by commissioning the construction of statues. 

“There was simply no money in the South after the war,” Gilliam said. “Really until about the time of the First World War, there wasn’t any money to put up monuments. So you will find very few monuments put up before about the time of the First World War.”

McIntire’s contentious legacy

Over the past few years, the controversy surrounding the nature of the statues McIntire commissioned — particularly those of Lee and Jackson — has escalated. The practice of honoring Confederate generals in public spaces has been widely condemned, as have McIntire’s motivations behind his commissions.  

The monuments constructed during the “City Beautiful” Movement were meant to portray people of moral integrity to inspire civic pride among the city’s population.

Assoc. History Prof. John Edwin Mason said that McIntire’s status as an elite, white Southerner influenced his decision to commission statues of Confederate generals like Lee and Jackson. 

“He was somebody who deeply believed that the cause of the South was honorable and that the people who fought for it, especially Lee and Jackson, were heroic figures,” Mason said. “He was part and parcel of what historians now call the ‘Lost Cause,’ this idea of a noble South.”

Mason said that though McIntire was one of Charlottesville’s largest benefactors, his contributions are inherently problematic. 

“They were designed to celebrate a romanticized view of the Confederacy that stripped away slavery, stripped away the brutality of slavery, stripped away the heartbreak of slave sales, stripped away the ugliness, and in fact mentioned slavery not at all,” Mason said. “Instead it substituted the myth that slavery had nothing to do with the war ... that the people who led these armies, people like Stonewall Jackson and Robert. E. Lee were wholly admirable.”

The facilities that McIntire funded during this time were racially segregated, either legally or informally. The deed of McIntire Park states that it was intended for the white citizens of Charlottesville only, while Washington Park was for the use of the black community.   

“[Washington Park] was created at the same time as the Lee and the Jackson and the McIntire Parks were created, but at the time the South was racially segregated, so there had to be a separate park for minorities,” Wilkerson said. 

While McIntire was a major beneficiary to the City of Charlottesville and the University, Mason says that there was a darker undercurrent linking his contributions. 

“That new public library was segregated,” Mason said. “He gave money to the schools — the schools were segregated. So everywhere you look, McIntire’s gifts — while they in the eyes of white Charlottesville are beautifying the city and honoring a glorious past — if you look at them through the eyes of black Charlottesville, they are enhancing the segregation of public spaces and celebrating the defense of slavery.”

McIntire’s Gifts in Today’s Charlottesville

During his years in Charlottesville, McIntire donated nearly all of the fortune he had made as a stockbroker to the city and the University.

“He died virtually penniless,” Gilliam said. “He had given all his money away.”

In addition to the parks and statues, McIntire funded the first public library in Charlottesville, which is now home to the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society. He also donated money to the city’s schools.

“He gave a good number of direct gifts for the construction of schools as well as funds for scholarships, which went on for many years,” O’Bryant said. “The scholarships were funded by McIntire Funds in both city schools and county schools.” 

The products of McIntire’s endowments are visible today all throughout grounds and the rest of Charlottesville. His donations have become an integral part of the city’s and the University’s history. 

However, many believe that the works he funded — the statues, in particular — are not indicative of the broader population’s sentiments, failing to represent minority communities of the past and present while perpetuating a revisionist history of the Civil War. 

“For most people in this area, the war was not a defeat,” Mason said. “The war was freedom, the war was triumph, the war was victory, the war was jubilee. The war was an end to generations of suffering under slavery. That’s how most people experienced it here.”

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