Orlando's Confederate statue removed from Lake Eola

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PHOTO BY MONIVETTE CORDEIRO
  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Without much fanfare, the Confederate statue that watched over Lake Eola Park for more than 100 years was dismantled Tuesday for its move to Greenwood Cemetery.

City employees began working early in the morning to carefully disassemble the almost 9-ton "Johnny Reb" memorial made of marble and concrete, piece by piece. While dismantling the statue, workers also found a rusty box tucked into its base, a time capsule that is likely more than 100 years old, says Greenwood sexton Don Price. Price says the box is light, weighing about three pounds, and probably contains documents and old photographs. The box hasn't been opened yet, Price says, because the city wants to make sure it doesn't damage any of the artifacts. Workers lowered the statue onto wooden slabs on a truck for transportation to a storage area where it will stay for several weeks until it can be reinstalled in its new location, says city spokesperson Cassandra Lafser.

The statue had been in Lake Eola Park since 1917, after originally being placed on Magnolia Avenue in 1911. Commissioned by a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the monument has a plaque honoring "soldiers, sailors and statesmen of the Confederate States of America."

Last month, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer decided to move the statue to the Confederate veterans section of the Greenwood Cemetery after an outcry from former Orlando Sentinel journalist David Porter and other residents, who said the statue was a racist symbol of white supremacy and slavery. At a city council meeting held on the subject, dozens of Confederate supporters from Orlando and other parts of Florida flooded City Hall, demanding that the statue be left in Lake Eola because it honored soldiers who died in the Civil War. But no such demonstrations happened during its removal Tuesday – workers removed the Confederate statue quietly behind a chainlink fence that was set up around the perimeter of the structure.

PHOTO BY MONIVETTE CORDEIRO
  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Lafser says the statue will be repaired and reassembled on top of a new base in the Greenwood Cemetery. The approximate cost to remove and re-erect the statue is about $120,000, but Lafser says those costs could increase. The city is also working with historians to install a plaque near the monument that gives historical context and serves as an educational tool. Overall, the process is expected to take about six weeks.

Greenwood Cemetery sexton Don Price stands in the Confederate veterans section where the statue will eventually be relocated. - PHOTO BY MONIVETTE CORDEIRO
  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
  • Greenwood Cemetery sexton Don Price stands in the Confederate veterans section where the statue will eventually be relocated.
Price says the Greenwood Cemetery is an appropriate place for the statue because so many of Orlando's historical figures are buried here in the same section, including Orlando Mayor William Jewell and Andrew Jackson Barber, who founded a cattle and agricultural dynasty across Central Florida. The reassembled statue will face north toward the Union states, instead of the way it's facing now, which is west toward Parramore, Orlando's largely African-American neighborhood. Price says the city wants to make sure the statue isn't facing a particular community.

"This is the Confederate section of the cemetery," Price says. "So historically, it belongs here. We're the keeper of the history."

PHOTO BY MONIVETTE CORDEIRO
  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro



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