The push to remove a bust of Roger Brooke Taney from outside Frederick City Hall is advancing after considerable delays.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday will review in a workshop session an application to remove both the Taney bust and one of Gov. Thomas Johnson from outside City Hall. A vote is scheduled for the commission’s Aug. 11 meeting, according to a report by Lisa Mroszczyk Murphy, a city historic preservation planner.

The application, submitted by Nikki Bamonti, executive assistant to the mayor, comes nearly a year after Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak put forth the proposal to relocate a bust of Taney from outside City Hall, and 10 months after the aldermen formally adopted a resolution in support of her proposal.

Removing the busts requires the HPC’s blessing, since the statues are part of City Hall property, which falls within the Frederick Town Historic District.

The application specifically seeks HPC approval to remove the busts of both historic figures, as well as a plaque that accompanies the Taney bust. The plaque was added several years ago to offer an explanation for the bust’s presence outside City Hall.

A specific replacement plan has not been determined, Bamonti said in a phone interview on Monday.

If approved for removal, both busts will be relocated. The Johnson bust will go to the Rose Hill Manor Park & Children’s Museum, run through the Frederick County Division of Parks and Recreation.

The Taney bust has two prospective new homes, although one has not been confirmed, according to Bamonti. Bamonti declined to specify the details of the unconfirmed location, except to say that the bust would be displayed publicly.

The alternative is a private home in Frederick County. The house belongs to Jimmy Smith, of Ijamsville, the grandson of Joseph Urner, the Frederick artist and architect who created the statue.

“I really wanted to keep it in the family if I could,” Smith said in a phone interview on Monday. “I remember [my family members] talking about the amount of hours and work my grandfather put in to that piece of art.”

Although Smith said he’s happy to take the bust, he would have preferred that it stay outside City Hall.

“It’s history, good or bad,” he said, referring to the legacy of the person the bust memorializes.

Taney is best known for writing the opinion in the Dred Scott v. Sanford decision during his time as the fifth chief justice of the United States. The 1857 decision said that African-Americans could not sue in federal court because they were not entitled to the same rights as American citizens.

Although he is “controversial and reviled” for this decision, Taney also played an important role in the country’s history and had many accomplishments as a legal scholar and jurist, Mroszczyk Murphy’s report states.

The bust was built and, in 1931, placed in front of what was then the Frederick County Courthouse, as a tribute to the 20 years Taney spent practicing law in Frederick before moving to more prominent roles.

During discussion of the bust’s removal last summer, community members and some elected officials emphasized the need to keep the bust of the historic figure in a public place. But the search for a new location proved more challenging than expected.

Mayor Randy McClement told The Frederick News-Post previously that he contacted multiple organizations and people who were not interested, including the Historical Society of Frederick County, which owns and operates a museum interpretation of Taney’s life in Frederick known as the Roger Brooke Taney House.

“The whole thing has taken a lot longer than I thought it would take or that I would like it to take,” Kuzemchak said in a phone interview on Monday.

Kuzemchak noted that the resolution did not hinge on a new place for the bust to go, just that it be removed.

But, she added, “I’m glad to see it’s moving forward.”

The resolution also made no mention of the Johnson bust.

Bamonti explained the decision to include the tribute to the former Maryland governor and politician in the HPC application as one based, in part, on symmetry. The two busts flank the entrance to City Hall.

The first governor of Maryland owned slaves, as noted during the series of public hearings about the Taney bust last year.

During comments at a meeting last fall, Bill Eyler, of Thurmont, mentioned Johnson while speaking about the consequences of the Taney removal.

“You better think about the other statue out there and say, ‘Well, do we want Thomas Johnson?’” he said. “And then what goes next?”

Rose Hill Manor Park & Children’s Museum, which interprets the life of Johnson on land he purchased for his daughter and later lived on, was a natural place to relocate the bust, said Jeremy Kortright, acting director of the Frederick County Division of Parks and Recreation, which owns the property.

“It accents what we already do,” he said in a phone interview on Monday.

The county Parks and Recreation Commission and the Rose Hill Children’s Museum leaders have recommended the bust be placed in the park, Kortright said.

County Executive Jan Gardner, who has final say on whether the bust becomes a part of the county-owned property, will likely review those recommendations in August, Kortright said.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @NancyKLavin.

Nancy Lavin covers social services, demographics and religion for The Frederick News-Post.

(24) comments

cldeboin

Why glorify hatred and separation , or bigotry and racial intolerance ? The lame argument of "heritage not hatred" no longer "cuts" it,.... (if it ever did) !!! Of course
remove the statue-- preferably yesterday !!!

jsklinelga

Curious that not one comment has been in support of moving the bust yet just several months ago multiple comments were adamantly in favor of it's removal. History and the changing opinions of our culture are fascinating. If the bust is removed keep it handy Jimmy Smith.

threecents

Both of those busts look like they have seen better days. Maybe put them for sale on EBay?

jwhamann

Looks like someone had thrown some sulfuric acid on Taney's face.

des21

Stupidity in action. I'm just glad the city has no "real" issues to tackle so the Aldermen can focus on this nonsense!

Hammer

Now Johnson won't have to be there to see the City annex Richfield and destroy the historic home there!

DickD

So, no one will know about Judge Taney and the Dred Scott decision after this and we will wonder why our children are so ignorant, Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/georgesant101521.html

"The city’s Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday will review in a workshop session an application to remove both the Taney bust and one of Gov. Thomas Johnson from outside City Hall." Historic Preservation Commission? This is a joke, isn't it?

public-redux

People should take heart. Relocating a statue isn't irreversible.

"A famous statue of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that was torn down overnight three years ago in his hometown of Gori will be reinstated in time for his birthday, December 21, local and Western media reported Tuesday, citing Georgian officials.

"The statue, which had been a prominent fixture in the town's central square, was dismantled under the regime of pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili. The landmark will reportedly now be re-erected outside the local Stalin Museum, opened in 1937 at the height of the Great Terror.
(snip)
"Communists and other older generation residents share a nostalgia for Stalin, who dragged the Soviet Union into the industrial age and helped lead the Allies to victory in World War II, while many other denounce his cruel repressions that killed millions."

https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/georgia-to-re-erect-stalin-statue-26310

Whatsup

I agree with the posters.
Instead of being just an armchair referee, do something about it:

What: city Historic Preservation workshop, agenda includes review of application to remove and relocate busts of Roger Brooke Taney and Gov. Thomas Johnson from outside Frederick City Hall
When: Thursday, July 28. Public hearing starts at 6 p.m., followed by workshop session.
Where: Frederick City Hall

jerseygrl42

PCs in action , wow this is a biggie....lets move a couple of historical artifacts

gardenwhimsey

Shame on those pushing for the cleansing of American history. Things have to be taken in the context of the times. The Dred Scott Decision was only one case in Taney's history as the fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The statue should remain where it is along with the plaque that was added. I recently spoke with a person new to Frederick who told me he lived on Taney Ave (Taney with a long "a"). I explained the correct pronunciation and related it to Taney Ave, Taneytown, and Roger Brooke Taney. He was not familiar with him. I said "you know, the Dred Scot Decision" and, again, he was clueless. If the bust remains, it provides the opportunity for education.
If you continue this type of cleansing, you are denying history.

teapartier

“What if” Roger Taney and the SCOTUS ruled in favor of Dred Scott? Would the sands of time have put America in a different societal position today? Would people be looking to erase his likeness from public view? The point is you can remove it, put it in a museum, in a garage or pulverize it and use it as a sidewalk. The one fact you can’t erase is that American has evolved into what we are today in part of Taney and his court decision.

tonyc51

Without a doubt one of the dumbest things I have ever seen. Now the discussion is to remove the bust of Thomas Johnson, first governor of Maryland. While we are at it we had better melt down the statue of John Hanson that is on the front of the courthouse, he and his family also owned slaves. PC RUN AMOK.

Cowell

[thumbup]

cascade123

So are we supposed to forget the legacies of Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson just because they owned slaves? Where does it end? Do we completely white wash American history because some people are uncomfortable with even acknowledging that "peculiar Institution"?

You can't change history. Moving a few statues doesn't change what happened a century or two ago.

de3jg24cgt

I agree with everyone above. These two Frederick icons are being attacked because mental midgets and politically correct fools like Donna Kuzemchak and other politicians are offended because their brain capacity won't allow them to understand that people who made decisions 200 years ago didn't think about what overly offended people were going to think 200 years later. Next, they will go to St John's Cemetery and dig up Taney and re-casket him and drop him off at Smith's house too. The situation is simple, people, our founding fathers, their principles and reputations are under attack by people who have no respect for our nation's or local history. It is disgraceful and I am with cctjr64 above

LeonardKeepers

this is utterly sickening and ridiculous that we have so called leaders that cannot see these busts for what they are a time in history of the united states.we have elected officials that cave in to one persons feelings of what happened over 100 years ago. these busts should stay right where they are and the people that have the power to decide whether they go or stay i would hope have the wisdom to acknowledge this is history and not something to put in a garage to never be seen again.

pazim64

These are nothing more than history and as said before "If we forget we are doomed to repeat it." Just like the confederate flag. All these symbols are is to show other countries and americans exactly how far we have come as a nation.

olefool

Erasing national and state monuments to appease some elements of society may have unintended consequences. The next step will be to declare that slavery was just a hoax and never happened. History is history, there's nothing phony about it, it is what it is. Leave these monuments where they are.

cctjr64

If both busts are removed, the politicians political careers will be finished as I will bring so much attention to this about them just like Blaine Young had.

Cowell

[thumbup]

Aslan19

Those who forget (or in this case ignore and hide) history are bound to repeat it. We are already headed towards this today. =(

Fredmd21704

It is sad that we have to keep hiding the history of our city and county.

marylandmirage

Because, in a virtual reality world, if we don't like something we can just remove it and poof! It never happened.

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