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Mayor wants Confederate memorial out of Forest Park

Runners pass the Confederate Monument in Forest Park.
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI
Runners pass the Confederate Monument in Forest Park.

Mayor Francis Slay wants a memorial to Confederate war dead out of Forest Park — a move that means the 101-year-old granite statue will likely head to storage.

The memorial on the north side of the park near the Missouri History Museum was built with funding from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and dedicated in 1914. It remained there with generally little fanfare until the mayor in April called for a committee to re-evaluatewhether Forest Park was the appropriate location for the memorial. The matter took on more urgency in June when nine people were shot and killed at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

The Incarnate Word Foundation, which was working on the issue before Mayor Slay's call, put together a committee that was asked to "provide the Mayor and the public with information on practical options for moving the monument from Forest Park to a more suitable public setting in a timely manner." The committee released its report on Thursday.

Institutions such as Saint Louis University, Webster University, the City Museum and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which operates the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, all declined to accept the statue. The Missouri Civil War Museum offered to take ownership of the monument and store it for the city, but did not promise any future display.

The committee determined it will cost about $130,000 to dismantle the monument and move it to storage. Erecting it on another site in the future would cost at least $200,000. It is not clear who will fund the dismantling of the statue, or when work will begin, though the committee said it did not believe aldermanic approval was needed, despite a 1914 law authorizing display of the statue.

A narrow focus

Alderman Lyda Krewson has introduced a measure to change the name of Confederate Drive in Forest Park to East Cricket Drive.
Credit Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The committee was only asked to consider whether anyone in the St. Louis area wanted the statue, and what it would cost to remove it from the park. 

"A constructive option would be to keep the memorial in place but have interpretive panels set up in front of it so people know what it's all about,"said Stuart Symington, a local attorney and historian who served on the committee. "That would follow the practice at the battlefield of Shiloh, where they have a very elaborate Confederate memorial and a very thorough and comprehensive interpretive panel explaining it." He said that would be a sufficient, short-term way to address the issue of the Confederate memorial.

"But what we ought to have is an appropriate memorial to the service of African-Americans in the military in our nation's defense," Symington said.

The committee also did not address whether the street where the memorial sits should be renamed from Confederate Drive. Legislation introduced in July to accomplish that goal has stalled at the Board of Aldermen. 

Follow Rachel Lippmann 0n Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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