City park maintenance staff began removing pink knockout roses from the garden strip at the Confederate monument Wednesday morning while Lee University groundskeepers began reworking the irrigation system before they assume responsibility for the gateway to the downtown business district.
Cleveland City Councilman David May recently asked the school to take over the iconic garden spot as an extension of the school’s landscape along the east side of North Ocoee Street.
“Lee University’s campus always looks immaculate and I just thought it would be nice if the landscaping around the monument and the university were compatible,” he said.
“We’ve worked out a partnership in which Lee University will design, install and maintain the garden, but the city will pay for all the plants and shrubs.”
Taking over the landscaping was an easy decision for Lee University President Dr. Paul Conn, who remembers walking as a young boy past the statue and obelisk on his way to Arnold Elementary School in the early 1951 when the campus of a small Christian school was three blocks to the north.
The two monuments and flowerbed now border the campus of a much larger Christian university.
“We are happy to do this. It’s part of our being good neighbors,” he said Wednesday.
…The statue was erected in 1910 by the Jefferson Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy “to our known and unknown Confederate dead.”
Dr. Conn said all Clevelanders back then knew the monument as the focal point, much like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Trafalgar Square in London or Times Square in New York.
“There is some place that’s the center — the sort of cultural, geographic, social, psychological center of the town — and the monument was always that place,” he said.