ITHACA, N.Y. — The City of Ithaca Common Council will vote on whether or not to remove a statue commemorating Ithaca’s first white settlers from DeWitt Park at Wednesday’s meeting of Common Council.
Mayor Svante Myrick says that his office has received several complaints about the statute, which has been vandalized recently as protests for racial justice have continued locally and across the country.
Myrick sent a letter on Tuesday to the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Committee requesting a certificate of appropriateness which, if approved, would allow the city to move forward with removing the statue and donating it to The History Center in Tompkins County for its permanent collection.
“This monument is of questionable historic accuracy at its root; but more importantly, in choosing to recognize two white men, it sends the intentional message that this land belongs to white people. Its purpose is to exclude the indigenous people who were the stewards of this land, and Black people and people of color who have long been members of this community,” Myrick wrote to the ILPC. “I have received many complaints from residents of Ithaca regarding the offensiveness of this monument and the exclusionary message it sends. It is time to elevate and amplify a more accurate and inclusive history of Ithaca.”
The monument was dedicated in 1933 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It holds a plaque that recognizes the first two white settlers in Ithaca.
Though the red paint is new, questions about the appropriateness of the marker is nothing new. Award-winning local historian Carol Kammen wrote in 2017 of the insensitivity — and at times, outright revisionist histories — that these markers commemorate, pointing out that, while the way the marker was written in the 1930s may not have bothered anybody, changes in our understanding of the settlement of the United States has changed.
The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission’s goal “to ensure exterior changes to locally designated historic properties are compatible with the historic character of the individual property itself and, if the property is located within a historic district, of the district as a whole,” according to the city’s website. As DeWitt Park and this statue fall in a historic district, ILPC would need to weigh in before the city could move ahead with the plan.
“And then we can get to work to highlight a more accurate and inclusive history of this place,” added Myrick.
City of Ithaca Common Council meets at 6 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. The agenda, including new details on public comment procedures, can be found here.