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Meet the people who are buying America’s rejected statues

Meet the people who are buying America's rejected statues

Three days before the Fourth of July, Columbus, Ohio, kicked out its namesake.

The town removed a statue of Christopher Columbus from its City Hall because, according to Mayor Andrew Ginther, it represents “patriarchy, oppression and divisiveness” to some.

But neighbors in Newton Falls, Ohio, are ready to give it a home.

“We are in the running,” Newton Falls City Manager David Lynch told The Post. “We would give [the monument] a place of honor.”

Across the country, cities and institutions are struggling with how to get rid of statues that people no longer want to celebrate. But even in this climate, there are takers ready and willing to rescue rejects.

The leaders of Newton Falls have declared their town a “sanctuary city” for unwanted statuary.

“History is a big part of this community’s identity — you can still dig up arrowheads in the fields — and we have acres of parks,” said Lynch. “Buying statues would be an expensive proposition. But by taking them from municipalities that would only put them into storerooms, we ­provide a good alternative.”

Brandenburg, Ky., mayor Ronnie Joyner took in a Confed-erate statue that Louisville discarded.
Brandenburg, Ky., Mayor Ronnie Joyner took in a Confederate statue that Louisville discarded.Jessica Ebelhar

Different cities have various ways of disposing of their relics. Boston authorities removed a beheaded statue of Christopher Columbus and placed the remains in storage. In Mobile. Ala., a statue of Confederate Navy officer Raphael Semmes was taken down by the city and transported to the History Museum of Mobile, to be displayed with context.

While Newton Falls’ Lynch considers ­George Washington, Christopher Columbus and Theodore Roosevelt tributes to be no-brainers, he draws the line at statues that honor Confederate soldiers. Other communities have no such qualms.

Decision-makers at the University of Louisville in Kentucky became queasy about a monument ­commemorating Confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War and, according to historian Gerald W. Fischer, “were going to s tore it in a landfill.” Then the town of Brandenburg, Ky., claimed it to go with its Civil War Discovery Trail.

Still, the memorial didn’t leave its controversy behind when it moved.

“Around the middle of June, we [heard] something about the BLM people coming down here, tearing down the statue and throwing it in the river,” Mayor Ronnie Joyner told The Post. “Word got out to the community and our downtown was littered with people walking with AKs and ARs. I’m glad nothing came of it. But it shows us how loved the statue is in our town and we don’t want anyone messing with it. We’re proud of it.”

A statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of the American Museum of Natural History will be taken down after objections that it symbolizes colonial expansion and racial discrimination.
A statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of NYC’s American Museum of Natural History will be taken down after objections that it symbolizes colonial expansion and racial discrimination.AP

It’s not just cities taking in rejects. Collectors are looking to scoop monuments they see as art.

When the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan announced in June that it was doing away with “Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt” — a 1939 bronze of the former president flanked by a Native American and an African American that has stood in front of the building for 81 years — one man’s ears perked up.

“Theodore Roosevelt is a cousin on my dad’s side of the family so, heck yeah, I’m in the market,” said Glenn Johnson, a Houston real estate developer who has one of the world’s largest Elvis Presley collections, valued at some $4 million. “I would put a million on the Roosevelt deal. Then I’d probably put it in my yard.”

As of now, the statue — which, according to the Mayor’s Office, has been deemed “problematic” because those alongside Roosevelt are depicted as “subjugated and racially inferior” — is not for sale. A spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office told The Post, “We are still determining next steps.”

There are also individuals collecting discarded statues for reasons unknown. According to Fox News, when the city of Dallas didn’t know what to do with a tribute to Robert E. Lee, Lone Star Auctioneers put the Confederate general’s bronze likeness on the block — and it sold for $1.43 million. The buyer was identified only as LawDude. The auction house did not return calls for comment.

Darren Julien of Beverly Hills-based Julien’s Auctions sees a market for emotion-stirring statues. “They are works of art and controversy makes things more valuable,” Julien told The Post. “The one in front of the museum in New York is an historical monument. Who would think you could own something like that?”

Statue of Robert E. Lee sits in storage at Hensley Field in Dallas.
A statue of Robert E. Lee sits in storage at Hensley Field in Dallas.AP

About the author

Vicky Sequeira

Vicky Sequeira

With more than 6 years of experience working as a media professional, Vicky flaunts prowess in bringing the juicy tit-bits from the entertainment industry for the readers of News Brig.

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