Silver Spring Residents Reject Idea of Moving Confederate Statue to Local Park
A group organized by County Council staff recommended Jesup Blair Park as one of five possible new locations
The Confederate solider statue in Rockville
Many in Silver Spring aren’t too thrilled with the idea of moving Rockville’s controversial Confederate soldier statue to Silver Spring’s Jesup Blair Local Park.
“I cannot imagine a less appropriate location,” wrote Robert Oshel in a letter to County Council members.
Oshel, author of the book Silver Spring and the Civil War and a resident of the Woodside Park neighborhood adjacent to downtown Silver Spring, also wrote that the Confederate army looted Silver Spring homes in 1864 and was likely responsible for burning one of the Blair family’s mansions.
Jesup Blair Local Park, close to Silver Spring’s border with Washington, D.C., is built on land once owned by the Blair family, whose patriarch Francis Preston Blair is credited with founding Silver Spring.
“Putting a monument to Confederate soldiers on the property would be an abomination and an insult to the Silver Spring area residents harmed by the Confederates under Jubal Early,” Oshel wrote. “It would also be extremely insensitive to the feelings of most, if not all, of the current residents of our diverse Silver Spring community.”
Others have offered a simpler response.
“This must be a joke,” one resident wrote on a Silver Spring neighborhood listserv.
The inclusion of Jesup Blair Local Park on a list of five possible sites for the statue’s relocation was made by a working group of local historians, representatives of the black community and government officials organized by County Council staff.
Montgomery County published the list last week, looking for public comment before County Executive Ike Leggett goes before City of Rockville historic preservation officials Sept. 17 to ask for permission to move it.
On Tuesday, County Council member Tom Hucker, who represents Silver Spring, sent Leggett a letter urging him not to relocate the statue to Jesup Blair.
He also told Leggett the county shouldn’t use public funds to relocate the statue anywhere.
"We should avoid asking County taxpayers, particularly those impacted most by persistent racial injustice in our community, to fund the statue's removal, and do so only as a last resort," Hucker wrote. "Any tax dollars that are available to relocate a statue could be better spent to fight inequality in our County, such as doing more to address academic disparities, promoting affordable housing, and expanding health care for low income families."
Hucker pointed to recent repeated vandalism of a Black Lives Matter banner at the Christ Congregational Church on Colesville Road as an example of “recent attacks on our shared values,” and wrote that “residents of Silver Spring are rightfully proud of the diverse, multiracial, multi-cultural community they have built.”
The statue, erected in 1913 by The United Daughters of the Confederacy, is a life-sized bronze of a cavalry private and was created to commemorate the soldiers from the county who served the Confederacy during the Civil War. It now stands on county property next to Rockville’s Red Brick Courthouse.
The working group chose the five sites because they all had some connection to Civil War history. Three of the sites, including Jesup Blair Local Park, are owned and operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC).
The Silver Spring park has five existing interpretative signs about Silver Spring’s role in the Civil War. A matrix of relocation options says the Blair family “has ties to the Civil War and President Lincoln’s Cabinet,” and that the historic Jesup Blair House is vacant and could be an appropriate location for a historical museum.
Staff from Montgomery Parks’ Park Planning and Stewardship Division have recommended against relocating the statue to Jesup Blair or its other two properties on the list—Calithea Farm Special Park in Potomac and Darnestown Square Heritage Park.
Hucker suggested putting the statue up for sale to private collectors and museums and wrote in his letter that one such entity has already approached the county about buying the statue.
“Frankly, the County should not have accepted the statue as a donation from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the first place,” Hucker wrote. “To ask County taxpayers to now fund its removal strikes me as two wrongs that clearly do not equal a right.”