A report on options for moving the Confederate monument away from Munn Park pegs the cost at $200,000 to $225,000 and suggests city commissioners choose between two locations: Roselawn Cemetery off Ingraham Avenue or Veterans Park just west of the RP Funding Center.
Both locations can accept the monument with little land alteration and display it with “fair historical presence,” City Manager Tony Delgado wrote in a report summarizing the work of committees of city employees that looked into relocating the 26-foot memorial.
The report was requested by the City Commission on Dec. 4 when it voted 4-3 to move the monument away from the middle of the park considered the center of downtown.
If it is moved to a historic district, the statue of a Confederate soldier atop the monument should remain facing east as it does now, the report recommends. The eastward orientation is seen as a sign of reconciliation, as opposed to many Confederate memorials whose northward stance is considered a sign of defiance.
Roseland Cemetery is seen as appropriate because it includes a Confederate memorial section. Veterans Park has been mentioned by many as a favorable location because it contains other memorials to fallen soldiers and first responders.
The report urges sensitivity in the placement of a Confederate monument in either location because graves of African-American Lakelanders are present near both. Roselawn, built during the segregation era, is reportedly all-white, but most of the people buried in the Tiger Flowers Cemetery to the north were black. Veterans Park, the report notes, was built near graves from the predominantly African-American Moorhead community, which was removed to make way for construction of the Lakeland Civic Center, now known as the RP Funding Center.
If Veterans Park is chosen, it “can provide an impetus to include a broader historical perspective honoring all who fought in the conflict while garnering a greater celebration of diversity as a whole,” the report notes.
The current monument, placed in Munn Park by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1910, is dedicated in memory of Confederate soldiers. An inscription on the eastern side reads “Confederate Dead” and contains the dates “1861-1865.” The inscription on the northern side says the monument was erected “in memory of the noble sons of the South.”
The report noted that at nearly three stories tall, the Civil War monument in its current form “could be seen as towering over the other monuments.”
Some on the committee suggested that the monument be placed near the rose garden on the northern end of Veterans Park to mitigate the height issue, Delgado said Monday. If placed closer to the other memorials, “we don’t want to modify it too much, but we might have plaques telling the story of all the veterans and communities affected by the war,” he said.
Regarding the Veterans Park alternative, the report says: “The committee believes the monument’s current configuration and form should be modified to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in this domestic conflict, as intended by the original organizers, but then also be used as a tribute to the freedoms gained from the war.”
St. Petersburg attorney Andy Strickland, who has urged commissioners in Lakeland and elsewhere to keep Confederate monuments in place, told the Lakeland commission at its Monday meeting that several organizations disagree with conclusions in Delgado’s report and would submit a rebuttal. Delgado said Monday morning that he had not yet received that rebuttal.
While Delgado’s report included cost estimates for moving the monument, it did not address funding sources. That will be a policy decision to be made by the commission, said Delgado, who added that some private citizens may be willing to “create a fund.”
The major expense would be a contractor hired by the city to dismantle the monument, load it, transport it and reassemble it. The committee recommended Energy Services and Products Corp. of Tampa, which successfully moved a Confederate monument from the Hillsborough County Courthouse in downtown Tampa to a cemetery in Brandon last September.
The Tampa firm estimates the work would cost $149,835.
The work estimate:
Other expenses to the city include site preparation and restoration, security, traffic control and possible additional insurance costs, putting the total cost at $200,000 to $225,000, the report says. The final cost will be more if the monument is modified or plaques or added, according to the report.
The United Daughter of the Confederacy’s efforts to build the monument began in 1905 and three years later the City Commission granted permission for the memorial to be placed in Munn Park. Minutes from the 1908 meeting mention no requirement that the statue stay in Munn Park permanently, the report notes.
The monument was obtained from the McNeil Marble Co. of Marietta, Ga. at a cost of $1,750 ($1,550 from private donations and $200 from the City Commission) and dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day in 2010.
Citizens started speaking at commission meetings asking that the monument be moved in 2015, but the board took no action until last year. Former Commissioner Don Selvage said last fall that the commission was compelled to discuss the monument’s future after cities and counties throughout the South removed Civil War memorials in reaction to racial violence in Charlottesville, Va. The result of several meetings and public hearings was last December’s vote to relocate the monument.
Commissioners said their vote to move it doesn’t erase history but places a marker of history in a spot where it can be displayed in historic context rather than stand alone in the figurative center of town.
The decision to relocate the monument is supported by guidance from the American Historic Association, the report notes. That organization has said that “removing Confederate monuments does not erase history but rather alters or calls attention to a previous interpretation of history,” according to the report.
The city’s historic preservation staff has concluded that “relocation of the monument outside Munn Park Historic District will not adversely affect the historical or architectural significance of the District,” according to the report.