Male counterpart to Statue of Liberty pitched for Patriots Point

By Ashley Fletcher Frampton
aframpton@scbiznews.com
Published Jan. 19, 2010

Patriots Point board members, in the process of reimagining the best use of their 445 acres landside, heard a proposal today for construction of a male counterpart to the Statue of Liberty on Charleston Harbor to honor freedom.

The pitch from Rodney Cook (pictured), president of the Atlanta-based National Monuments Foundation, left most board members temporarily speechless.

Rodney Cook, president of National Monuments Foundation“Wow,” several board members said quietly after the presentation concluded.

The proposal, complete with a rendering of a huge male figure in a golden hue towering over the city’s skyline, will take some time to absorb, said John Hagerty, board chairman.

Cook made the presentation at the request of a team of consultants that the Patriots Point Development Authority has hired to create a new master plan for the site. That team is led by the Glatting Jackson land planning and design firm of Atlanta and includes local developer Vince Graham.

The master plan concerns the land surrounding the floating ships that make up Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. As the museum struggles with funding to maintain those ships, officials have looked to their underutilized landside acreage as a potential source for more revenue.

Cook said the monument he envisioned would probably cost $100 million to $150 million. But, he said, it would drive tourism to the site in a new way and dramatically increase the value of the surrounding land.

“And the money will follow,” Cook said about raising funds to build the monument.

Right now, Patriots Point is searching for about $8 million to pay back a loan from the state used to save the USS Laffey destroyer from sinking. Officials had counted on $20 million in the federal budget, but that earmark has disappeared.

Cook said Charleston is the only good match for another U.S. monument symbolizing freedom and highlighting the South’s role.

“Here you have the entire pantheon of American history,” Cook said.

The USS Laffey travels up the Cooper River to undergo repairs. (Photo/Leslie Halpern) He referenced Charleston’s role in the Revolutionary War as well as the Civil War and the location of Sullivan’s Island, where many slaves were shipped into the country. The city is the cradle of Southern history and culture, Cook said.

He said his home city of Atlanta could not host such a monument because it was burned by Union troops during the Civil War.

“My city couldn’t possibly pull this off,” he said. “It would be silly.”

Cook said the monument he proposed could be placed on land, or it could be built somewhere in the harbor. Possibilities include Castle Pinckney and Morris Island. The base of the monument could contain a history museum, he said.

“An island opportunity makes it all the more wedded to really the greatest iconic statue in the world today, the Statue of Liberty,” he said.

Board member Susan Marlowe asked Cook if he meant a monument that is actually the same scale as the Statue of Liberty.

“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” he replied.

Cook said he proposed a male figure because a female would be too similar to the Statue of Liberty. But the conceptual image he shared showed a figure that shared many attributes of that statue, including a draped garment and crown with starlike points. The figure was shown pointing toward the harbor.

Board members wondered aloud how such a monument would fit with the mission of Patriots Point Development Authority, how they would fund it and whether it would generate the revenue they need to keep operating.

The presentation followed another proposal for a monument — far smaller in size — to be sited at Patriots Point.

The S.C. Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans presented their plans for an 11.5-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide monument honoring the upcoming 150th anniversary of the signing of the Ordinance of Secession in Charleston.

That event, which helped set in motion the Civil War, happened Dec. 20, 1860, said Jeff Antley, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Antley said most plaques and monuments honoring the event in South Carolina have disappeared.

The group has already raised about a quarter of the money needed for the monument and has detailed plans for its construction, but they need a place to put it, Antley said.

They’ve considered other locations, he said, including the Warren Lasch Conservation Lab, where the Confederate sub H.L. Hunley is being restored. But they prefer Patriots Point because it promotes history and tourism and has plenty of available land, and because of the attraction’s connection via boat tours to Fort Sumter, another important Civil War landmark.

Antley said the group is hoping to complete the monument by December.

The only cost to Patriots Point would be security and the cost of electricity used to light the monument at night, Antley said.

Hagerty told members of the group that before the board makes a decision on the monument, members need to talk to stakeholders about the proposal and consider it in the context of the new master plan.

Board member Harry Gregorie said the board needs to figure out how to balance the use of Patriots Point’s land with its mission and ability to maintain its naval ships.

“We could have a development authority that’s 400 acres of monuments,” Gregorie said.

Patriots Point and its consultants plan to hold a workshop in February to present to the public some of the conceptual ideas for the new master plan and gather feedback.

Also at today’s board meeting, Patriots Point Executive Director Dick Trammell gave an update on the Laffey, which was moved to dry dock at Detyens Shipyards in North Charleston in August for hull repairs.

Trammell said the ship is out of dry dock and has moved to Pier November at the S.C. State Ports Authority’s Veterans Terminal. He said the ship is still undergoing other repairs and will probably stay at its current location until the end of May.

Patriots Point officials are trying to determine where the Laffey will be positioned when it returns to the tourist attraction.

Officials have said that placing the destroyer on the right side of the USS Yorktown, the site’s largest ship, instead of its former position to the left could better protect the Laffey from future damage from the tide. Trammell said Glatting Jackson is also considering where the ship best fits into the master plan.

Reach Ashley Fletcher Frampton at 843-849-3129.

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Comments:

Added: 19 Jan 2010

Wow, $100 million to $150 million? What a coincidence! That's exactly what is needed to keep the Yorktown afloat and in good condition - how about spend the money on the main attraction you already have that needs it.

Neil Baumgardner


Added: 19 Jan 2010

Um. Please tell me it's April 1 and I'm mistaking today for January 19.

Sean McCambridge


Added: 20 Jan 2010

Spending that money on anything other than things that are really needed is the absurd thing. We have people starving and going hungry and in need of medical attention and you want to build a counterpart to the statue of liberty...how about statue of absurdity. And as for the yorktown...my grandfather fought on that ship and still the money put into that project in this economy is ridiculous. Lets look at things that we really need and can be changed to benefit us and our children more.

Mary Womble


Added: 20 Jan 2010

A monument of this scale works perfectly in a city of the size and average building height of New York. It does not fit in with Charleston's historic, low-rise character.

Alan Donald


Added: 20 Jan 2010

I think the funds could be used much more wisely and effectively in other venues. Artists communities would be are real draw to the downtown. People love Ceramics, Painters, Sculptors, hancrafted goods like furniture, and Musicians etc. Arts will draw the public vs a statue and for a lot less money. Why not build a huge concert hall! Music can draw millions from all over! Form a Symphony! etc. Lastly, Charleston and all of South Carolina is known for it's gobs of Revolutionary War history. It leads the nation in Revolutionary War battlefields, which is not well-known to most people. South Carolina is to the Revolutionary War what Virginia is to the Civil War. I think it's main role in the Civil war is Fort Sumter and the Hunley, as well as being invaded, defeated, and burnt by the Union Army. If you want to focus on local history It should probably be heavy on the Revolution/colonial period and next to that the Civil War and WW2 history. There were German U-boats in Charleston Harbor in WW2 and I believe that German Spies were captured at the Navy Yard.

Jim


Added: 20 Jan 2010

Sounds exciting to me. A nice way to bring some attention back to the South.

Josh Steadings


Added: 21 Jan 2010

We have people without jobs, children without education, families with no decent homes, thousands in SC with no health care.... I could go on. Now we want to spend $150 million for a statue?? Have we learned nothing? This is one of the most absurd suggestions that I have heard in SC. Is this the best you can do?

Dee


Added: 22 Jan 2010

I think this is an excellent idea, but it is so funny how people can just come up with 150 million dollars for a monument in this harsh economic times we are in. Someone's holing out huh? I think people should come forward to help Charleston's school systems and most importantly, JOBS! This monument is only going to bring tourist jobs, and who said all Charlestonians want to be in the hospitality business. Use that money to bring established companies down to get money circulating.

Anthony Powell


Added: 22 Jan 2010

I think it's just rediculous. How about restoring the city? Or making the outskirts of Charleston a bit more appealing. We all know in order to get into Downtown Charleston, you have to drive thru crime ridden streets. It just seems like there are so many more useful ways to spend this money. The statue of liberty was a sign of hope to all of those crossing into America. Are we expecting a surge of immigrants into Charleston? I doubt it.

Shannon


Added: 23 Jan 2010

It's certainly an interesting idea. But Alan Donald makes a great point about the scale of the proposed statue needing to be appropriate to the city. And I definately agree with Jim, that Charleston needs to do more to feature its role in the colonial and Revolutionary periods. Charleston's ties to Native American, African and Caribbean history and cultures, and even its Pirate history could be better represented. And that certainly creates more oportunities for the arts, perhaps including colonial living history and arts facilities. And of course, more great restaurants! The Statue of Freedom idea may be a bit premature in this economy, but for SC's 400th Anniversary, who knows. And an island location does seam even more appropriate than Patriot's Point.

Mal Weatherly