Showing posts with label Confederate statue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Confederate statue. Show all posts

Monday, July 24, 2017

Rockville Confederate statue secretly removed by Montgomery County

Montgomery County pulled a fast one on its own residents, removing the controversial Confederate statue from the Red Brick Courthouse over the weekend. County Department of General Services Director David Dise acknowledged to MyMCMedia, the only media outlet apparently invited by the County to observe the removal, that the date was intentionally kept secret from the public. As expected, the statue will now be installed at White's Ferry. What was unexpected, was that the public would not be informed of the actual removal, simply so the County government could frame the event exactly the way they wanted to politically.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rockville rejects Confederate statue - now what?

The City of Rockville has declined to accept the controversial Confederate statue Montgomery County wants to relocate from the historic Red Brick Courthouse to the Beall-Dawson House. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and the City Council voted 4-1 to reject the statue, with Councilmember Beryl Feinberg the lone dissenter.

The decision primarily turned on the County's refusal to pay the full costs that would be involved in securing and protecting the statue. "I don't want to see it warehoused forever," Newton said, "but I also don't think it's the city's responsibility to take it. I'm firmly in the camp of not accepting it."

"Rockville is being put on the spot. It would utterly dominate that site," Councilmember Mark Pierzchala said in starting the discussion Monday night. "It would be very difficult to place in historical context. I am leaning at this point against agreeing to accept it."

Feinberg, who is a County employee, said she did not believe she would be biased in making her decision, and that she had not been pressured by the County to vote in any particular way. After consulting with the City Attorney, Feinberg said she had concluded that she would not have to recuse herself in this case.

It will be a major embarrassment for the County if it is forced to mothball the statue in a warehouse someplace.

But the Beall-Dawson House was never an ideal location, anyway. The statue was sure to be vandalized repeatedly, now that it has been made into a target. And, as offensive as the statue is to many, it was also offensive to descendants of Confederate veterans to position the statue in a direction other than facing south, as had been proposed for the Beall-Dawson site.

This statue should be placed where its significance and meaning are appreciated, such as in a Confederate cemetery. It's hard to believe there isn't one somewhere that would be glad to accept it. Ultimately, it's sad that future generations in Rockville will grow up with no idea of their City's full role in the Civil War, in both its positive and negative aspects.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Rockville HDC approves County request to move statue to Beall Dawson House

The Rockville Historic District Commission voted 3-1 last night to approve the Montgomery County Department of General Services request to move the Confederate statue from the historic courthouse to the Beall Dawson House. There was actually some drama at last night's meeting.

Commissioner Emily Correll once again recused herself, due to having testified against moving the statue at a public hearing, prior to being appointed to the HDC. That left a quorum of 4. But things got briefly tense when a 2-1-1-1 split emerged among the four commissioners voting.

Commissioner Jessica Reynolds said she favored the recommended spot at the Beall Dawson property. Chair Rob Achtmeyer countered that that site seemed too much like a rededication, and said the alternate location would be less formal. Commissioner Craig Moloney was not pleased about placing the statue in such a prominent place. He said he personally was offended by the statue, and that it is "defiant", not merely a fallen soldier surrounded by angels. Commissioner Anita Neal Powell concurred, saying that placing the statue at Beall Dawson was actually giving it greater prominence and visibility than the current site, where it is hidden.

Reynolds repeatedly made her displeasure with the County Executive known during the hearing, asking city staff what conditions the HDC could place on the approval to require the County to pick up the potentially hefty tab for moving, siting and posting of signage and other materials. She argued city residents shouldn't have to pay when it was the Executive who demanded it be moved.

The motion to approve was made by Reynolds and seconded by Powell. At the last moment, Moloney and Powell joined Reynolds for a 3-vote majority; Achtmeyer cast the lone dissenting vote.

What made for some drama was that earlier split - 2 people in favor (but each preferring different alternative spot), and 2 opposed. Reynolds ultimately sided with Achtmeyer on the alternate spot, setting up a 2-2 tie. A tie would have counted as a rejection of the County's request, potentially delaying the statue's move further.

Now the Mayor and Council will vote to accept or reject the statue at their February 8 meeting.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Rockville's Confederate statue could stay put at least through February 2016

Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and the City Council will have the final say over whether or not the Confederate statue outside the Red Brick Courthouse ends up on the grounds of the Beall Dawson House, City Manager Barbara Matthews confirmed during Monday night's Mayor and Council meeting. 

The Rockville Historic District Commission is scheduled to take up Montgomery County's request to move the statue, which the County owns, to the City-owned Beall Dawson property on Thursday night. That decision was postponed when the recusal of one commissioner prevented a quorum on that agenda item at last month's meeting of the HDC.

Matthews said that, even if the HDC approves the move, the Mayor and Council can accept or reject the statue. She recommended scheduling Mayor and Council action on the matter for February, so that the highly-controversial issue would not overwhelm budget discussions already on meeting agendas in January.

That would mean the statue will remain in place at least through February of next year.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Rockville Confederate statue move put on hold, Chestnut Lodge development reviewed

The absence of two members of Rockville's Historic District Commission at last night's meeting resulted in the postponement of action on moving the Confederate statue to the Beall-Dawson House until mid-December. Although the Commission had a quorum with 3 members present, newest member Emily Correll informed HDC Chair Rob Achtmeyer that she would recuse herself from the statue vote, having testified on the matter as a citizen at a previous hearing.

Commissioner Jessica Reynolds was out of the country, and Commissioner Craig Moloney was detained by bad weather despite his intention to fly back in time for the meeting, Achtmeyer said.

The Commission was able to handle the rest of its agenda, however.

Commissioners voted unanimously that there was no historical significance to homes at 714 and 729 Beall Avenue, allowing their owners to now demolish them. Both are in the West End Park subdivision. Achtmeyer suggested that, while neither of these homes were of the structural integrity to preserve, the City and residents should be having conversations about specific homes, blocks and areas within Rockville that could be designated historic, to preserve mid-century residential architecture.

Afterward, Commissioners conducted a courtesy review of the 7-townhome development on the site of the former Chestnut Lodge at 500 W. Montgomery Avenue, for developer JNP Chestnut Lodge, LLC.

Architect Randy Creaser told commissioners that he did extensive research on Chestnut Lodge, a historic hotel later converted into a sanitarium. In 2009, the abandoned building was burnt down in a fire many believed was an arson incident.
Chestnut Lodge as photographed
in 2003

Creaser said he was inspired by the building's 2nd Empire Victorian architecture, and wanted a design that would "acknowledge and give a nod to the grace and beauty of that architecture we lost."
The proposed townhome
Central to that, are the tower elements of the building's roofline. Ten foot ceilings - "a very Victorian height," Creaser noted - also allow for tall windows. Natural light was very important during the gaslight age, Creaser said. A gable element along the new building's south elevation will also pay tribute to the Lodge.
Tower elements at the
roofline recall
Chestnut Lodge
Garages will be recessed 17' behind the rear decks of the townhomes, and are at a lower grade than the access road, minimizing them as architectural elements, Creaser said.

The applicant's attorney, Soo Lee-Cho, said that by moving the footprint of the building south, mature holly trees will be preserved. An arborist testifying for the applicant said the trees "are worth this effort," and that he had worked out a long-term plan with the City arborist to ensure the health of those natural resources.

Of the Chestnut Lodge-inspired design, Achtmeyer said, "This is not typical in any way, and I think that's important for this site."

Commissioners did not express any objections to the plan. It will now be presented to the Mayor and Council in a briefing Monday night.

Photos courtesy City of Rockville

Monday, October 26, 2015

No action on Confederate statue reconsideration request by Rockville HDC

Rockville's Confederate statue remains on track for removal, as the Historic District Commission declined to revisit its September decision to permit Montgomery County to move it at its October 15 meeting. Opponents of the move had hoped the HDC would put a reconsideration of the decision on its November agenda.

The hot topic was not even the subject of much discussion at the meeting, where Peerless Rockville Executive Director Nancy Pickard briefly addressed the HDC during the Public Comment period. She asked the commissioners to "take a fresh look at the decision," based on information that those who oppose the relocation have uncovered since the September meeting.

Earlier in the evening, the commission went into a closed Executive Session, to receive legal advice on "correspondence received October 2." HDC Chair Rob Achtmeyer later noted the commission had received correspondence from Peerless Rockville and others, but the topic was not addressed further at that point.

Close to the end of the meeting, Commissioner Craig Maloney did briefly comment on the statue request during Old Business. "I don’t think this is an appropriate course," Maloney said. "We made the correct decision on this."

In other business, the commission declined to find 9 triplex units at 9701 Veirs Drive to be of historic significance. The homes will be replaced with a new residential building. Jim Wasilak, Chief of Planning for the City of Rockville, said the developer has not yet submitted that project for review by the Planning Commission.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Peerless Rockville contesting Historic District Commission decision on Confederate statue

Eileen McGuckian, Executive Director emerita of historic preservation organization Peerless Rockville, criticized the September 17 vote by the Historic District Commission to allow Montgomery County to relocate the city's Confederate statue at last night's Mayor and Council meeting. McGuckian said the HDC made at least two errors in its decisionmaking process.

On the question of whether or not the statue had itself been declared historic, McGuckian said HDC commissioners were misled by city staff, who had said no such evidence could be found. She said that was incorrect, and that the statue had indeed been declared historic in the past. McGuckian also argued that the HDC used the wrong set of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's Standards in reaching its conclusion.

The deadline to file a request to reconsider the HDC decision is October 4, McGuckian said. But the next Mayor and Council meeting is not until October 5. The Mayor and Council couldn't do anything about the matter anyway, Councilmember Tom Moore told McGuckian, as they have no authority to intervene.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg said they would make themselves available to meet with McGuckian this week to discuss the matter.

McGuckian also called for more training for HDC commissioners, whom she said "were clearly uncomfortable with their roles" on September 17.

Newton said the Mayor and Council must have a public discussion on a separate issue regarding the statue October 5 - whether or not it will be accepted by the Beall-Dawson House, which is the preferred location by Montgomery County so far.

Friday, August 28, 2015

MoCo planners recommend moving Rockville Confederate statue to Beall Dawson House, or "private entity"

Montgomery County planners are recommending the Montgomery County Planning Board endorse moving the controversial Confederate statue from the Red Brick Courthouse to the Beall Dawson House in Rockville. As an alternative, they suggest giving it to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, or another private owner. As a last resort, they recommend relocating it to one of two possible County parks, in Potomac or Darnestown.

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. 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

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)
 Fencing
 Lighting (depending on which site is selected)
 Security
 Conservation
 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.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Montgomery County Planning Board to weigh in on Rockville Confederate statue location

The Montgomery County Planning Board does not have jurisdiction over the Confederate statue at Rockville's Red Brick Courthouse. But it plans to weigh in on the topic Thursday morning, September 3.

According to the meeting agenda, the board will be briefed by Park and Planning staff on the statue. It will then be asked to name 3 parks it believes the statue should be placed in, should it end up in a park outside the city of Rockville. Finally, it will officially give its support of the statue's relocation.

The statue is owned by Montgomery County and is located on county property. However, the County must formally apply to the Rockville Historic District Commission on September 17 to relocate it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Rockville city staff member to join MoCo Council panel discussion on Rockville Confederate statue

The absence of Councilmember Tom Moore at last night's Mayor and Council meeting resulted in little argument over the next steps the City of Rockville will take regarding the controversial Confederate statue at the Red Brick Courthouse. In fact, the Mayor and Council ended up voting unanimously on the next communication that will be sent to the Montgomery County Executive and Council on the matter. That email will thank County Executive Ike Leggett for his decision on the statue, and quickly removing the graffiti that defaced it last week. It will also name a city staff member to serve on the County Council task force that will discuss the ultimate fate of the statue beginning August 11.

Leggett's decision was to remove the statue from the courthouse grounds. What remains undecided, is where it will be relocated to.

Councilmember Virginia Onley addressed her decision to withdraw her support for Moore's aborted letter to Leggett, and sign on to a new letter with Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg. Onley said two specific points influenced her choice. First, Moore's letter implied the Mayor and Council had voted on issues they had never actually taken a vote on. Secondly, Moore's suggestion of moving the statue to the Beall-Dawson House was actually impossible, Onley noted. The house is owned by the city, but is rented by the Montgomery County Historical Society.

Resident Joe Jordan criticized Moore's media attacks on the mayor in recent days. In remarks made during the Community Forum segment of the meeting, Jordan took Moore to task for his inflammatory language, in which Moore described Newton as "lawless and unprofessional." Such attacks were "just wrong," Jordan said, and asked that the bickering stop.

The staff member who will represent the city in the discussions will be selected by the City Manager.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rockville Confederate statue walled in by Montgomery County (Photos)

Montgomery County has "boxed up" the controversial Confederate statue on the grounds of the Red Brick Courthouse, placing wooden walls around it. Only the soldier's head is now visible. This is ostensibly to prevent further vandalism of the statue before it can be relocated.

The future of the statue is expected to be discussed by the Mayor and Council at their meeting Monday evening. However, the city's Historic District Commission must weigh in on the matter, and they are not scheduled to meet until September 17.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rockville Confederate statue hearing draws a diversity of opinions

An overflow crowd turned out to speak and listen at an unusual work session called by the Mayor and Council Monday night, to discuss the fate of Rockville's Confederate soldier statue on the grounds of the Red Brick Courthouse. Many residents of the city, Montgomery County, and the state of Maryland said removal of the statue would merely be an attempt to erase the history of those jurisdictions' involvement on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Others said it represented a message of pure hate, white supremacy, and an orchestrated attempt to recast the Confederate cause in more noble terms. Some were even descendants of actual Confederate soldiers, who were offended by some speakers' attempts to compare those Americans to Nazi and Japanese soldiers in World War II.

Two additional lines of argument emerged over the evening. First was increased questioning of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's authority to be "the decider" in this case, after Leggett announced Friday that he had made the decision himself to remove the statue. Along those lines, there were questions as to where the money to move it and store it would come from.

Secondly, two speakers noted that the U.S. Congress in 1958 passed an Act of Congress that made all Confederate veterans American veterans.

The evening began with a panel of local experts on history and the Civil War, as TV station cameras jockeyed for room in the crowded Mayor and Council chambers of City Hall.

“Unfortunately, we can’t pick and choose what we receive from the past,” Matthew Logan, Executive Director of the Montgomery County Historical Society said. Logan said that the statue represented the Confederate sympathies and soldiers of Montgomery County during the Civil War. He hoped that, rather than hide the statue away, it could be used to "launch a broader discussion about how the symbols from our past affect us to this day. The way we resolve this dispute is more important than the ultimate fate of the statue," Logan said.

Nancy Pickard of the Peerless Rockville historical organization said the rush to judgement on the statue "pretends that the past does not exist." She described it as an "important vestige of our city and county history," arguing that "erasing those memories, instead of allowing them to inform and educate, is a mistake."

Historian Eileen McGuckian, who has written extensively on the history of Rockville, called the historic courthouse "the right place" for the statue. The brick structure was so much the center of life, McGuckian said, that the village "was known as Montgomery Courthouse" before it was Rockville. 1913 was a poignant time to erect the statue, she said, because area Civil War veterans were now dying.

In sometimes personal and emotional testimony, Tony Cohen of the Menare Foundation and Button Farm questioned where all of this reconsideration of historic symbols would lead us as a community. Would streets named for local Confederate sympathizers be changed, as well?

Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she had just spoken with Leggett earlier Monday. While Newton said he was not yet reconsidering his decision to remove the statue, she added that "he’s looking to work with us," and that the executive acknowledged it would be appropriate for the Historic District Commission to at least give some feedback on the issue.

To those who have said the process is moving too quickly, Councilmember Tom Moore said, "I should have spoken up 18 years ago, when I first arrived in Rockville. I reckon we are moving 18 years too slow."

Councilmember Virginia Onley said she was pleased at the level of interest the community displayed in the topic through its turnout. "There are a lot of folks in this room that I don’t recognize. I want to thank each and every one of you," she said.

A Silver Spring resident said, "just melt the thing down," and use the resulting material to create a new statue promoting unity.

One of the creators of an online drive to remove the statue said it "should be removed immediately, and never returned to public property again." He said it was erected by selfish, "white politicians seeking to unify white Montgomery County residents for their own benefit," during "a time of extreme race hatred” in Maryland.

In equally strong comments on the other side of the issue, a Maryland Confederate heritage organization member said removing the statue would be a "surrender to the Dylan Roofs of the world," saying his group strongly resents the appropriation of Confederate symbols by hate groups.

Civil War re-enactor and county resident Galen Fairbanks said, "only totalitarian regimes edit their history. This is America, let’s act like it."

Brian Karem, editor of the Sentinel newspaper, said he hadn't planned to speak, but actually made a strong point about just how far Confederate sympathies and participation had extended in Rockville during the War Between the States. He recalled the head of the 1st Maryland Confederate Cavalry was a mayor of Rockville. Karem gestured toward a wall in the room and noted that former mayor's "picture is right there on that wall."

Adol Owen-Williams II, asked how many black Republicans were in the room. "Me and me alone," he replied to his own question, pointing out that the NAACP was founded by Republicans. "I vehemently oppose moving this statue," he said, noting the participation of free blacks in the Confederate army. Owen-Williams suggested we face more pressing issues than the statue, but instead the county is "busy focusing on irrelevant things."

Despite Leggett's decision, at least one other discussion will be held in a closed meeting at the behest of County Council President George Leventhal, and the HDC is expected to discuss the issue as well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Rockville Mayor and Council to hold public conversation on Confederate statue Monday, July 20

Update, July 15, 2015

The old switcheroo - the official announcement for this event, published the day after the Mayor and Council meeting July 13, indicates that the Confederate statue public hearing will now be held before the meeting, and will begin at 6:00 PM, Monday July 20.

The article has been updated to reflect the schedule change.

Rockville will have a public discussion of the fate of the Confederate statue located by the Red Brick Courthouse before the Monday, July 20 Mayor and Council meeting. Officials and historical experts are being invited from the Montgomery County Historical Society, Peerless Rockville and Montgomery County NAACP, as are experts on the Civil War. No speaker is yet confirmed.

The conversation will be held as a work session before the meeting at City Hall.

Since the recent controversy over Confederate symbols began, the question of whether Rockville's statue - which is actually on Montgomery County property, making the statue's fate a county decision - should remain or be moved has been part of that discussion locally.

Next Monday's regular Mayor and Council meeting will begin at 7:00 PM at City Hall.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Should the Rockville Confederate statue be removed? Take the Rockville Nights poll.

What started as a South Carolina question, went nationwide, and culminated in the cancellation of Dukes of Hazzard reruns by TV Land, has come to Rockville. A city historically torn by conflicting loyalties, and where many significant Civil War figures actually passed through during the conflict, Rockville is now faced with the question of whether or not it will remove its most prominent landmark of the War Between the States.

A decision Friday by the Maryland Historical Trust's director suggests the city may not have the authority to decide. The decision could now be made by Montgomery County elected officials, as the county owns the land by the Red Brick Courthouse.

What do you think about the question of whether the Confederate memorial statue should remain or be moved?

Take the Rockville Nights poll, which is found on the right sidebar of your screen, (in the desktop version). The poll will conclude at 12:00 AM on July 31.