Statue removal getting real, and McKinley’s home town is talking to Arcata about taking it

One place in Canton, Ohio that the statue won't be going is the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, which still isn't interested in hosting it on its grounds. KLH | Union

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – With key meetings about removal of the statue of William McKinley from the Plaza soon to take place, the cities of Arcata and Canton, Ohio are in talks about transfer of the statue to McKinley's midwestern home town. Canton is home to the McKinley Presidential Museum and Library, though that facility is decidedly disinterested in the statue. It's not yet clear where in Canton the statue might be located.

And while Canton might be a historically fitting destination for the statue, it's far from certain that any offer it makes will be most attractive to Arcata's City Council,  which will give direction on the matter at its Feb. 20 meeting.

The council voted to remove the statue on Feb. 21 of last year, a decision affirmed by Arcata voters in November. More detail here.

Next Tuesday, Feb. 12, Arcata's Planning Commission will consider technical matters associated with the statue's removal. These include certification of the removal project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR), adoption of findings and a statement of overriding considerations regarding the impact on a historical resource (the Plaza), a General Plan amendment, approval of the project and direction to staff.

The Planco will also consider a draft resolution for the council to approve at its Feb. 20 meeting, one detailing its wishes as removal moves forward.

McKinley being installed on the Plaza. This operation is soon to occur in reverse.

City Manager Karen Diemer said she wants to provide the council as many options as possible from which to choose. "I want to get as much in front of them as I can," she said.

Possibilities include keeping the statue in Arcata, or transferring it to some appropriate public or private venue. Diemer said she's cast a wide net, with inquiries to museums and other possible "historic and contextually appropriate" locations.

While the city has taken a number of inquiries, the Canton outreach is the only government-to-government offer so far received. None of the local offers so far received include a public viewing option.

"My first choice is to find a suitable new home for the statue somewhere locally, but that place hasn't surfaced yet," said Arcata Mayor Brett Watson. "It's important to me that wherever the statue ends up, it remains in the ownership of the public."

A major consideration might be recovering costs associated with removal and storage of the statue. Diemer estimated that preparation of the EIR and historical reports has cost $9,000 so far "out of pocket," according to Diemer, but that doesn't include staff time and physical removal costs. "We will tabulate removal costs and ways to recoup them," Diemer said.

Also unknown as yet is the time frame for removal, though that could be clarified by the council's Feb. 20 direction. Diemer said that "ideally," the statue package would include its base.

Canton Mayor Thomas Bernabei.

Community Development Director David Loya emphasized that despite Canton's historical connections to President McKinley, conversations with that town are "on the same level as everyone else" the city has talked to so far. "The council has to give us direction," Loya said.

A Dec. 27 letter (see below) to Diemer from Canton Mayor Thomas Bernabei pitches that city as "a fitting future location," and offers assurances that the statue would be on public display. The letter mentions the McKinley Presidential Museum and Library (see photo, above) and the McKinley Monument, though the museum has expressed no interest in acquiring the statue. The letter also identifies possible local funding sources "interested in assisting our efforts to bring the statue to Canton."

McKinley Presidential Museum and Library Executive Director Kimberly Kenney reaffirmed the position of her predecessor, Joyce Yut, in ruling out that facility as a possible location. "We have a statue and a bust on our steps," Kenney said. "We don't want to be a statue museum. What we have is all we need."

Kenney suggested that the statue would most appropriately be sited in downtown Canton, where young William McKinley worked as an attorney. She said locating it there would help highlight the 25th president's historic relationship with the town, and help tie the town to the museum bearing his name.

Below, the letter from Canton Mayor Thomas Bernabei, and next week's Planning Commission staff report on the statue.




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