Friday, August 28, 2015
MoCo planners recommend moving Rockville Confederate statue to Beall Dawson House, or "private entity"
Such a move is hardly agreed upon yet, but any removal of the statue will have to go through the Rockville Historic District Commission. That body - mostly unknown to the public, but well-known to readers of this blog, which covers its meetings regularly - has jurisdiction over the Rockville Old Courthouse Historic District, in which the statue currently stands.
The statue itself is owned by Montgomery County, as is the property it rests on.
Montgomery County Council staffmember Marlene Michaelson was directed by Council President George Leventhal this summer to convene a committee, to discuss the relocation of the statue. Michaelson began a site search, and inquired about one in particular, Woodlawn Manor Special Park.
Several meetings were held in late July and August. Leventhal then invited the following individuals to participate in another meeting on August 11:
Timothy Chesnutt, Director of Recreation and Parks, City of Rockville
Anthony Cohen, President, Menare Foundation and Button Farm
Bonnie Kirkland, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, Office of the County Executive
Jamie Kuhns, Senior Historian, M-NCPPC
Joey Lampl, Cultural Resources Manager, M-NCPPC
Matthew Logan, Executive Director, Montgomery History
Joy Nurmi, Special Assistant to the County Executive
Nancy Pickard, Executive Director, Peerless Rockville
Anita Powell, President of the Montgomery County Maryland Branch NAACP and Lincoln Park Historical Foundation
Laurie-Anne Sayles, President, African American Democratic Club of Montgomery County
Scott Whipple, Supervisor of Historic Preservation Unit, M-NCPPC
Powell is also a commissioner on the Rockville HDC.
From a list of 14 potential sites, the group did not agree upon or endorse a final location for the statue, but generated a shorter list of 5 potential locations:
1. Beall-Dawson Historical Park in Rockville.
2. Callithea Farm Special Park in Potomac.
3. Darnestown Square Heritage Park in Darnestown.
4. Jesup Blair Local Park in Silver Spring.
5. The Edgewood Farm (privately owned) in Gaithersburg/Unity.
Some participants expressed concern that the County would lose control of who could access the statue, should the private owner wish to restrict public access. The County might also lose the ability to provide context in any display of the statue, with some worrying the display could continue to be offensive to some. Others felt the statue should remain where it is, with better interpretive display elements.
A chart is scheduled to be posted on the Montgomery County Council website next week, to allow for public comment.
RockvilleNights.com has obtained the chart already, however (click to enlarge):
If you can't wait until next week, comments on the statue can be sent to Council President George Leventhal / Montgomery County Council / Re: Confederate Statue / 100 Maryland Ave. / Rockville, MD 20850, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Someone will also have to pay for the "hard costs" of moving and maintaining and securing the statue. County Executive Ike Leggett has identified the following costs:
Access (if driveway, path, parking, trail, etc. are needed or to achieve ADA compliance)
Lighting (depending on which site is selected)
Interpretive Signage and other Historical Display Items
Montgomery County's Department of Parks has stated it does not believe the statue should go to a public park in the county.
Callithea Farm is primarily an equestrian facility on River Road, and the statue would have to be fenced to keep visitors separated from pastured horses. The park is adjacent to the Camp at Muddy Branch site, a Union camp during the Civil War, and a trail would have to be built from Blockhouse Point Conservation Park (the modern location of the camp) into Callithea Farm. No lighting could be used, as it would attract insects that carry diseases afflicting horses.
Darnestown Square Heritage Park seems an unlikely location, as it is adjacent to a Harris Teeter-anchored shopping center on Route 28. 18,000 Union soldiers camped there, but does that make sense as a tie-in when you consider the statue remembers Confederate soldiers? Wouldn't the risk of vandalism - likely to persist at almost any publicly-accessible location, particularly with the media attention and controversy - be high there, as well? There is no vehicle access at this site, either, and it contains a cemetery at which the grounds may not be disturbed or altered.
Jesup Blair Local Park is a more accessible location, in a higher population area - which obviously would increase the vandalism risk, as well. Located at Georgia Avenue and Blair Road near the D.C. line, the park is named for a member of the famed Blair family, which has been extremely prominent in county and Maryland history - including during the Civil War. That connection, and specifically, the Blairs' close ties to the Lincoln administration (and the fact that Montgomery Blair's house was burned by the Confederates), make this again seem like a downright nutty context for a Confederate statue. In my opinion, at least.
Planning staff is discouraging placement of the statue at any of these 3 County parks.
Their top recommendation is to move it to the Beall Dawson House, or transfer it to the Daughters of the Confederacy or another private owner.
If it is necessary to utilize a County park, however, staff is recommending Callithea Farm - but only if "it can be housed in a true Civil War visitor center." That would require the statue to be stored at County expense until such a facility could be funded and constructed.
The second choice of planners is Darnestown Square. They are recommending the Planning Board ask Leggett and Leventhal to remove Jesup Blair from consideration.
Leggett is expected to appear before the Rockville HDC at its September 17 meeting. The County Planning Board will discuss the matter and vote on their recommendations at their September 3 meeting.