Explanation of Aspen’s Civil War monument planned
August 24, 2017
Pitkin County commissioners approved a plan this week to avoid any future misunderstanding or vandalism of Aspen's unique Civil War monument by adding an explanation of its origin.
The memorial, located outside the Pitkin County Courthouse, honors "the soldiers of 1861-1865" and portrays a generic soldier with his rifle who is not meant to be a Confederate or Union soldier, according to officials at the Aspen Historical Society and a newspaper article from the day it was dedicated, May 31, 1899.
"It was meant to represent a time of healing following the Civil War," Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said Tuesday during a commissioner work session.
However, after a recent white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to the death of a woman, as well as other Civil War monuments and statues being defaced and removed, the county received a request from a resident asking to remove it, Peacock said.
After Peacock shared research from the historical society and newspaper articles from the dedication and subsequent Memorial Day services in Aspen that relate themes of national unity rather than North-South divisiveness, the resident made another suggestion.
"He agreed that it's actually a special context and a special monument, but that nothing explained the monument and what it means," Peacock said. "So he requested a plaque or an explanation of the unique history."
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Peacock said county staff would like to install a temporary explanation quickly, then work with the historical society and the community to come up with a permanent installation.
Commissioners Patti Clapper and Rachel Richards liked the idea, though they worried about offending the historical integrity of the courthouse and the monument itself.
"I don't want it to look too cheesy," Richards said of any temporary installation.
She suggested possibly incorporating some of the quotes from newspaper accounts of the dedication and later Aspen Memorial Day celebrations.
"That shows the spirit in which the country was trying to come together after the war," Richards said. "It was that, 'We're one country again.'"
Richards and Clapper also said they would like to see any addition to the monument be free-standing and not attached to it.
Board Chairman George Newman also worried that any quick, temporary installation might look "schlocky" and suggested including area veterans in the process of coming up with the explanation as well.
Commissioner Greg Poschman also liked the idea, saying that it was interesting to learn about the history of a monument residents have walked past for decades and possibly not known its history.