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Cherokee Triangle Residents Split On Castleman Statue Removal

Photo by J. Tyler Franklin

For many years, the John Breckinridge Castleman statue has been synonymous with the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood. The image of “the man on the horse” was used in neighborhood association literature, as the mascot of the Triangle’s art fair, and as a landmark for giving directions.

But Mayor Greg Fischer announced Wednesday that the city plans to remove the controversial statue.

This comes nearly a year after the statue wasfirst vandalized in August of 2017; this occurred in the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, which caused the city to take a closer look at Castleman's past. He played a key role in establishing Louisville’s park system, but also served in the Confederate army.

In December, Fischer announced the formation of the Public Art and Monuments Advisory Committee, who created guiding recommendations for the city’s entire canon of about 400 pieces of public art.

Those recommendations werereleased in June.

And while the Committee did not reference any specific art piece in the document, they urged Greg Fischer to act quickly regarding the Castleman statue because it haddominated most of the public meetings they held.

Neighborhood Reaction

During the public meetings, feedback was mixed — much like Wednesday in the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood, shortly after Fischer’s office announced the statue would be removed.

Jim Morrow lives directly across from the Castleman statue.

“I got the best seat in the house,” he said.

And he’s upset about the statue being removed.

“The statue has always been something that I’ve appreciated living beside,” Morrow said. “It’s a beautiful piece of art.”

Cia White lives in the neighborhood as well, and attended some of the protests surrounding the statue.

“And I’m really glad [it’s being removed].” White said. “I think it’s really solid of the mayor to make that decision, I know he didn’t make it by himself.”

And then, there are residents like Skip White — no relation to Cia — who are still undecided:

“I can see both sides of it,” White said. “I’m not African American. I didn’t know for years the history of John Castleman. I thought initially it would be good to take John down and leave Caroline up, the horse.”

John Brooks is an artist and gallery owner who lives in the neighborhood. He said as an artist, he feels weird about the concept of censorship.

“But I also think that while we have to be careful judging people from the past by contemporary viewpoints, we also have an obligation to honor the best of us,” Brooks said.

And that’s where it seems the neighborhood still disagrees about whether Castleman represents Louisville’s current values.

Eighth District Councilman Brandon Coan — who represents the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood — said he was glad a decision was made.

"It's always been sort of a split opinion; it hasn't been necessarily 50-50 right down the middle, but clearly there's going to be a large segment of the population who's very happy and appreciative of the outcome and there's going to be a big segment of the population that dislikes the outcome," he said.

The city is in conversation with Cave Hill Cemetery about moving the Breckinridge statue — along with the statue of anti-immigrant newspaper publisher George Prentice, which sits in front of the main library — to their respective family burial grounds. If no other suitable sites are found, the statues will go into storage.

In a news release, Fischer's office said the goal is to have any issues resolved and the statues moved by the end of the year.

WFPL Reporter Amina Elahi contributed to this story.

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