Government & Politics

Daughters of the Confederacy monument removed Friday from Ward Parkway

A United Daughters of the Confederacy monument that has been in Kansas City’s possession since 1934 was removed Friday from the boulevard at 55th and Ward Parkway and carted to a secure site.

“The memorial removal went smoothly,” Kansas City Parks Director Mark McHenry said Friday, following a removal operation that required a crane and contractor working for several hours Friday morning. “It’s in storage in an undisclosed location, not on park property.”

The monument was removed at the request of the Missouri chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which is headquartered in St. Louis. Costs of the removal and storage are being paid for by a private, anonymous donor.

The memorial to the Loyal Women of the Old South was donated to the city in 1934 and originally located on the Country Club Plaza. It was moved to 55th and Ward Parkway in 1958.

The monument was vandalized late last week, which came on the heels of protests and violence in Charlottesville, Va. The vandalism also followed an Aug. 14 letter from Prairie Village resident Peter Gogol to the parks board, asking that the monument be removed.

The parks department received well over 100 phone calls and emails, both for and against removal, following publicity about the Aug. 14 letter. The parks board originally had intended to have a thoughtful community conversation about the monument. But after it was vandalized, and the Daughters of the Confederacy asked that it be removed from the site, the decision was obvious, McHenry said.

Now the parks department is determining its future location.

“We know it’s not going to be on public land in Kansas City. Whether it goes to a location outside of Kansas City is a distinct possibility,” McHenry said. “We will work with the organization to determine its best future site.”

As far as McHenry knew, there are no other such confederate monuments on Kansas City public park land.

A contracting crew arrived early Friday to cut the monument with chainsaws into its original 17 pieces for transport. Rex Burns, the head of the crew, opposed relocating the monument even as he orchestrated its removal.

He said those who want it removed are “causing a lot of hard feelings, like my feelings. … Are they going to quit teaching history?”

Other than a few honks from passing cars, the removal garnered little attention from the community. Other than journalists, two police officers and the working crews, no citizens had arrived by 8:30 a.m.

Margaux Renee, a student journalist from the nearby St. Teresa’s Academy, spent a few minutes in the wide median documenting the removal.

She told The Star that she felt there were many symbols of segregation in Kansas City. She declined comment further on the monument’s removal.

Burns and his crew had about three hours to cut the monument into sections for removal by a crane. The centerpiece weighs about 15,000 pounds, Burns said.

Pieces chipped off in the process will be glued back in place during reassembly.

The entire monument was removed before noon Friday, and McHenry said the remaining bricks will be removed and the site restored to fit in with the rest of the boulevard.

The parks board will take brief public comments on the issue at its meeting Aug. 29 but does not plan to discuss the monument at that time.