Legendary Madison architect Kenton Peters put it to the chairman of the Landmarks Commission hard and often.
“Are you doing this,” Peters said of Stu Levitan’s about-face in favor of removing the memorial stone at Confederate Rest, “to show you’re against slavery?”
That, Peters continued a few hours ago, was “hypocritical grandstanding.” You might as well tear down Maya Lin’s Vietnam War memorial because some say that was a racist, unnecessary war.
Levitan had told this Blogge that he changed his mind in favor of uprooting the old stone because it was too big. Blaska testified to the effect that “you try to fit 140 names onto a smaller stone.”
Your historic-minded Squire added that many a widow and child subscribed to the memorial stone at Confederate Rest as the first permanent record of their kinfolk’s final resting place. Only weathered boards marked their graves when that monument was dedicated in 1906 in a ceremony conducted by veterans of the Union fight against slavery and secession.
And for chrissakes, the Lost Cause people didn’t sneak that stone into Madison in the dead of night. Union veterans like Captain Frank Oakley and Major Hugh Lewis solicited those funds to erect that monument. Oakley handled the money and contracted the stone mason. The memorial stone wasn’t too big for those who fought for freedom. Why is it, suddenly, to big for Stu Levitan. Maybe HIS stones are too small.
‘Misplaced liberal zeal’
Back to Room 351 of the City County Building. Another Madison icon, Tom Garver, weighed in. “I am as good a liberal as anyone here but this is a perfect example of liberal overkill. These are not towering figures, General Lee on a horse. It is a grave marker. … Are you ready to obliterate all history with your misplaced liberal zeal?”
But the final indignity to Madison’s moral preening came from the only minority member of Landmark Commission present tonight (07023-18), Lon Hill. “Something that historical, I would vote to leave it there.”
In the end, the Commission was deadlocked 2 to 2; three were absent. Ald. Marsha Rummel of Progressive Dane joined Stu in supporting the uprooting of 112 years of Madison history. She called it “reparations.”
Commissioner Katie Kaliszewski joined Hill. In her own quiet way, she was the most devastating of all. “I don’t like messing with people’s grave markers. Graveyards are sacred sites.”
So the Landmarks Commission delayed an actual vote on the memorial to the 140 and the Madison woman who selflessly cared for their graves, Alice Whiting Waterman, until late August.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Stu Levitan said the Common Council debate in April ultimately swayed him. But days after that debate, Stu was rueing that he had not fought harder to change their vote to remove the stone. Let’s face it, Stu. You were mau-mau’ed.