Review Board Recommends Removing Confederate Statues

In downtown Lexington, the statue of John Hunt Morgan was spray painted.

In downtown Lexington, the statue of John Hunt Morgan was spray painted. It could remain in place indefinitely.

Posted online November 12, 2015 8:45 p.m.

Mayor Gray emphasizes that a final decision will not be made now because of the renovation project.

LEXINGTON – Members of the Urban County Arts Review Board have made recommendations concerning two statues and a historical marker near the Historic Courthouse, as the city makes plans to renovate the 1898 structure. Work on the building is set to begin next year.

In July, at the request of several citizens, Mayor Jim Gray, asked the Board to review the placement and presentation of the statues and the marker.

Last week the Board recommended the following:

  • The Mayor should initiate a comprehensive review of the statues and historical monuments around the Court Square. The review should include significant, new artistic and design elements. These new plans should be created with a process that is inclusive of community input, and seek to provide a complete and accurate portrayal of Lexington’s history.
  •  The statues of John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge should be relocated to publicly accessible, appropriates spaces, where citizens and visitors can still acknowledge the role of these individuals and learn about their historical importance.
  • The Cheapside Slave Trade marker should be restored to its original location, on the northeast corner of the Old Courthouse. (The historical marker had to be moved because it was broken by vandals. A replacement has been ordered.)

Gray said he will review the board’s final report and send it to members of the Urban County Council for their review, but emphasized no decisions can be made now because of the renovation project.

The Courthouse renovation will reportedly be made possible through Federal Tax Increment Financing (TIF) which has several stipulations, possibly even restricting the removal of the statues despite this recommendation.

“Even though decisions concerning the statues have to be made as part of the courthouse renovation, the Board’s study will provide good perspective as we move forward,” Gray said. “And its recommendation for a comprehensive review is a good next step.”

In a Key Conversations Radio interview that will air Sunday, Nov. 15, First District Councilman James Brown addressed the question of whether TIF stipulations would restrict the removal the statues due their historic nature, Brown said, ”I don’t think we have an answer as to how that is going to play out. If it comes to be that the statues cannot be removed because of the TIF money, then that is a decision that us on council and the Mayor are going to have to make; whether receiving that money is more important than what leaving those statues in place means to some of the citizens.”

According to the Mayor’s office, 301 messages have been received so far via mail, email or phone on the statue subject. 250 people asked that the statues remain in their current locations; 42 asked that John Hunt Morgan be moved; 34 asked that John Breckinridge be moved; 16 asked for the addition of a new monument. Comments are still being accepted through the Mayor’s office.

Note: In March 2017, the city of Lexington held a pubic hearing about a new city project within the Hunt-Morgan house where there is also a Civil War Museum. The continuing controversy was discussed on Key Conversations Radio April 2, 2017 during a Hot Topics segment. Listen here… http:// conversations-radio/