ROCKVILLE — Montgomery County taxpayers may shell out potentially tens of thousands of dollars to relocate the Confederate Cavalry Statue a quarter mile down the street by year’s end. While the historic Beall-Dawson House in Rockville is under renovation construction, city and county elected officials are determining whether to move the controversial Confederate Cavalry Statue […]
ROCKVILLE — Montgomery County taxpayers may shell out potentially tens of thousands of dollars to relocate the Confederate Cavalry Statue a quarter mile down the street by year’s end.
County Executive Ike Leggett and members of local history groups agreed Sept. 22 the best spot to move the controversial monument would be the grounds of the Beall-Dawson House museum at 103 W. Montgomery Avenue.
Before that happens, the City Council and the city’s Historic District Commission will have to approve of the relocation effort since the monument would be transferred from county-owned property to city-owned property.
Monday night, Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton reported the County’s Department of General Services director David Dyce issued an Oct. 8 deadline for the City Council to make a decision about relocating the statue to the Beall-Dawson House property.
Council members and the mayor will likely do so at their Oct. 5 meeting – their last meeting before the deadline.
While a majority on the council Monday appeared to back the idea of moving the monument to Beall-Dawson, Newton and council member Beryl Feinberg hedged their support on two unanswered questions.
Following the Sept. 28 City Council meeting, Newton said she could support it “as long as we address who’s going to pay for the additional signage and interpretations.”
“It’s not just a plaque. It could be more than that,” added Feinberg.
During the summer, council member Tom Moore suggested moving the statue to the Beall-Dawson House so the city could curate it and add context to it as a historical statue.
He reemphasized his support for moving it again Monday, saying, “Nothing’s changed.
“I think it’s a proper place for us to publicly curate the statue,” he said. “Everything lines up for it to be there.”
The Beall-Dawson House is a 200-year-old home-turned-museum located near the southwestern intersection of W Middle Lane and N Adams Street.
It is modeled to resemble 19th century living arrangements, including slave quarters.
Moore stressed the point of moving the statue a quarter-mile down the road, even at a potential cost of more than $10,000, is that it’s “inappropriate” to have it located on the grounds of a courthouse, which is supposed to represent equality and due process under the law.
“Moving it off those grounds makes all the difference in the world,” he added, later suggesting local high school students could help provide context for the statue by coming up with the proper signage for it.
The earliest the Historic District Commission could offer its approval for relocating the monument is Nov. 19. The filing deadline passed for the commissioners to consider it during their Oct. 15 meeting.
“I think the executive wants to move it by the end of the year,” said County Executive spokesperson Patrick Lacefield.
Lacefield mentioned the County’s Department of General Services will be reasonable for coming up with the money in its budget to move the statue.
“We’re still looking at some contractors to get the best price possible,” he said, adding the cost will be north of $10,000.
“Yes, absolutely. It will be five digits… That’s just an expense that the Department of General Services will have to cover out of their budget.”
The Confederate Cavalry Statue has stood in its current location since 1971 but the massacre of nine African Americans by a white man in Charleston, S.C. earlier this year led to a nationwide dialogue about whether it’s appropriate to have Confederate symbols on public grounds outside of museums.
Along with the costs of physically moving the monument, county taxpayers will also have to cover the cost of developing a site plan designed to pinpoint exactly where to put it along the Beall-Dawson House property.
“And that would include things like pedestrian access, some landscaping elements and things of that nature,” said Matt Logan, the Montgomery County Historical Society executive director.
While the final location is still up for debate, Logan narrowed the choices down to two outdoor places.
One spot would be along W. Middle Lane, in a small park along the north lawn near the Jane C. Sween Library; the other would be somewhere closer to the actual Beall-Dawson House itself.
In any scenario, the 16-foot-tall structure is too tall to stand inside, according to Logan.
“It is an absolutely massive piece of art and there’s nowhere I’m aware of that could exhibit it inside,” he said.
Logan joined Peerless Rockville founder Eileen McGuckian and executive director Nancy Picard and Menare Foundation founder Tony Cohen during their Sept. 22 meeting with Leggett.
While the four historians all voiced support for keeping the statue at the Red Brick Courthouse, Leggett “made it clear that that was off the table and was unacceptable from his standpoint,” said Logan.
The Beall-Dawson House then became the leading candidate for the statue’s new home.
Several factors played a role in Beall-Dawson being the default choice.
At the Sept. 17 Historic District Commission hearing, commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of authorizing county officials to move the county-owned statue but included in their vote a recommendation for them to keep it in Rockville.
McGuckian and fellow Peerless Rockville member Patricia Woodward complained to the City Council Monday the commissioners refused to correct a staff error about the monument being designated an historical structure and also allowed a technical problem to persist.
Prior to the Monday meeting, McGuckian sent an email to the mayor and council members stating the commission allowed “[i]naccurate and misleading statements in the staff report and staff recommendation that the Confederate Statue is neither significant nor even designated in a Historic District by the City of Rockville.”
She then mentioned the commission also allowed “[i]naccurate, and misleading procedures involving the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines, and Rockville HDC criteria and Rules of Procedure.”
Previously, County Council members also unveiled a list of potential sites evaluated as potential homes for the statute.
Logan, however, reluctantly agreed about relocating it to the Beall-Dawson House.
“We’re willing to take it here,” he said. “We want to do what’s best for all parties concerned. We feel like we have a responsibility to help interpret it. And if our community and our elected representatives determine this is the best location, then we’ll set up and do everything we can to promote community understanding (of the statue) and building appreciation for our past.”