A few weeks ago, legislation was demanded (and then proposed) to secure 'historic landmark' status for Hemming Park, specifically to prevent any future discussion of removing the Confederate Monument from the Government district. The measure will be discussed this Wednesday in front of the Historic Preservation Commission, to little fanfare and almost no public notice. The legislation is specifically formulated to make moving the confederate statue nearly impossible, and due to the almost silent progress of the bill, no opposing points of view have been registered. Find out more after the jump.
The request is technically to landmark Hemming Park.
One of the commissioners spoke under request of anonymity that it might be hard to designate the entire park due to so many profound changes during the many different redesigns and iterations over its history.
Now the idea to landmark apparently came from a group of Pro-Confederates who were in full attendance and action at the first meeting on this topic one month ago---rebel regalia and all.
It's being sought by a Seber Newsome III. Newsome is notable for having sued Hemming Park (and losing) over the removal of brick pavers to do core samples for the Black Sheep kiosk project.
(If you go to youtube and type in his name, (seber newsome) you will find an amusing video. If you go to twitter (seberiii) you will find other amusements)
The commissioner went on to say that they might not landmark the park but might just landmark the statue "because no one had voiced opposition to saving the monument."
Once landmarked---provided that it qualifies ---there would little to nothing that can be done to alter it in the future.
Many people feel that Hemming is no longer the right place for that monument.
But whether or not that is the general consensus of the city or whether its just a handful of people who feel this way, this proposed landmarking would prevent any real conversation with the community from taking place. It is felt amongst the neo confederates and pro confederate groups that the public would probably move the statue, given the outcome of the public controversy that led to the renaming of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School. They feel that preventing the possibility of being able to have the conversation is the best defense.
However there are other, very reasonable people, like Bill Delaney who feel:
"In Jacksonville, we're too quick in general to demolish or erase things. To me, the better solution isn't to remove it, but instead to take the money and erect a new monument commemorating the other side. We already have the oldest Union monument in Florida, the 1891 statue in Evergreen Cemetery. Without much effort, that could be relocated to Hemming Park and refurbished with commemorations for the 54th Massachusetts and the 35th United States Colored Troops, who liberated Jacksonville from Confederate power. History buffs of all persuasions could get behind a project like that, and think of the press it would generate."
The issue will be open for public comments at the Historic Preservation Commission, 214 N Hogan St between 3p and 6p tomorrow (July 27th)
The Pro Confederates have a Facebook event page asking people to show up and speak--complete with capitalized 'OUR' history references, naturally.
There is a diversity of opinions on the subject, but tomorrow might be the last time you can effectively express them if landmarking is approved.