ROCKVILLE – Maryland Historical Trust’s acting director said Friday the county has the authority to remove or move a confederate soldier’s monument at the Red Brick Court House and the MHT has no say in the matter.
For the past couple of weeks, city and county officials and residents have started a discussion about what should be done with the statue. The statue’s inscription reads “To Our Heroes of Montgomery Co., Maryland that we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line.”
Some, including Council President George Leventhal, said the statue should be removed and nearly 100 people have signed a petition to that effect.
Although the Maryland Historical Trust has a preservation easement on the courthouse land, the Trust’s lawyers said the county does not need permission from the MHT to remove the statue from the land, Acting Director Elizabeth Hughes said.
“The easement speaks to the requirement that the Director of the Trust must provide express written consent for certain types of changes or alterations to the property,” Hughes said. “However, after a careful review of the easement language with our attorneys, we have determined that removal of the statue is not one of those changes that would require approval by the Director of the Trust.”
County Senior Legislative Analyst Marlene Michaelson said with that information the county is now free to take action on the statue.
Hughes also said the director of the Trust would still need to approve any new construction on the property.
“The erection of an additional statue or installation of interpretive signage, for example, would be covered by this language,” Hughes said. “Only ‘lighting and other utilities, sidewalks, signs and benches’ are permitted to be installed without prior approval of the Director.”
Of those objecting to the statue, some want it removed from public property. Residents Steve Porter and Lou Nayman started the petition to remove the statue this week and have gathered 89 signatures so far.
“You don’t put up monuments to every cause or personality,” Nayman said. “You can put them in museums and study about it but to have it on public property is essentially lending a seal of approval to honoring something that is in fact dishonorable.”
Nancy Pickard, executive director of Peerless Rockville, said on July 8 she also thinks the statue is a designated historic place in the city and would be subject to review of the Rockville Historic District Commission.
However, city staff member Sheila Bashiri, liaison to the commission, said she has talked with state officials and they are trying to figure out if the city’s historic status applies just to the courthouse site or also includes the statue.