Stop the Move! Keep the Waving Girl in Morrell Park!
Stop the Move! Keep the Waving Girl in Morrell Park!
Signers of this petition want the incoming City Council to halt the move of the Waving Girl monument until all perspectives are heard. An independent commission should be set up to propose the best solutions for improving the visibility and accessibility of the monument.
The Waving Girl statute was placed in serene Morrell Park in 1972. The sculpture was dedicated to the memory of a local icon. Florence Martus was the unofficial greeter of all ships that entered and left the Port of Savannah from 1887 until 1931. During the past 47 years her likeness has become the very symbol Savannah's welcoming spirit of hospitality.
At the November 7, 2019 meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Commission’s Historic Sites & Monuments Commission, a petition was brought forward proposing relocating the Waving Girl statue to the west end of the riverwalk. While the MPC staff agreed that the petition “meets the standards in the Master Plan and Guidelines for Markers, Monuments, and Public Art,” the Historic Sites & Monuments Commission unanimously voted against the relocation. Their reasons for voting against the relocation were concerns over setting a precedent of moving public art. It seemed a complicated solution to a problem that needn’t be complicated, and more concerning, public opposition was strong.
One of the guidelines the MPC staff considers is that of funding, as the Mayor and Aldermen do not fund works of art. Their findings were that funding would not be a factor in this case as “The funding for the relocation of the monument is fully backed by partners within the Plant Riverside Development team. The resources to mobilize the monument are prepared and exist at the Plant Riverside development already.” (source: https://bit.ly/34bdcHD
The petition put forth to the MPC in November was in the name of Sottile & Sottile, the architecture firm in charge of Richard Kessler’s Plant Riverside development on the new west end extension of the riverwalk. The original petition can be found here (https://bit.ly/3545wIo
Last Thursday, December 5, 2019, the outgoing City Council was presented with an amended petition in the name of ‘Christian Sottile & The Propeller Club of Savannah’. The amended petition can be found here (https://bit.ly/2E4kLVD
The City Council members voted 7 to 2 in favor of the appeal, going against the Historic Sites & Monument Commission’s recommendation which was to deny the relocation of the Waving Girl. All of the votes approving the move were cast by the outgoing Mayor and Aldermen. The two votes against the move came from Van Johnson, the new mayor, and Dr. Estella Shabazz, the only alderman keeping her seat. It felt very apparent during the council meeting that the 7 in favor of the move did not scrutinize the petitioner’s motives for the move or reflect on the reasons for the decision of the Monument Commission.
Much of the public has been shocked by this decision. It appears most do not understand or agree with the decision for moving the Waving Girl. There are five obvious issues with the choice for the new site.
First, the move is being pushed by a relative few. It was petitioned by the architect for the Plant Riverside Project, Christian Sottile, and the Propeller Club. They sought little support outside of this group. Their chief spokesman in the meetings has been Richard Kessler who is the developer of Plant Riverside, immediately adjacent to the new spot for the Waving Girl.
Second, the petitioners are not being transparent about the funding for the move. They say the petitioner is raising the funds for the move. That’s Christian Sottile, Plant Riverside architect and the Propeller Club; while the MPC document states funding is from “Plant Riverside Development Team”. To dispel any suspicion of a conflict of interest it would be appropriate for them to show exactly where those funds are coming from.
Third, at the MPC meeting the petitioner stated the family of the Waving Girl wanted the move. Since that meeting two members of the family have publicly come out against moving her. One member spoke at the City Council meeting and was barely acknowledged.
Fourth, the site is not in keeping with the legacy of Florence Martus. She would be moved further inland away from a serene environment and into a brick and mortar walkway in an urban development. She should simply be moved closer to the river in the same area away from the trees. If moved to another location, the more appropriate spot would be eastward so that Waving Girl could continue to welcome ships before they reach Downtown Savannah. The spot is also away from the sight of vehicular traffic, including trolleys.
Fifth, the visibility issue is not as severe as the petitioner describes. Christian Sottile and various members of the Propeller Club have repeatedly stated the Waving Girl statue is not visible to seamen calling on the Port of Savannah because it is fully obscured by tree canopy. Unfortunately, they also continue to show outdated photographs in their petition which include trees that are no longer there. While we do not disagree that greater visibility and accessibility should be considered for a beloved statue of local import, a concern with the new placement is the brick building that will serve as her backdrop. From the vantage point of the seamen traveling up the Savannah River, the statue will be lost against the brick backdrop. It seems reasonable to suggest there are less drastic options to improve visibility and accessibility.
We are petitioning the incoming City Council that takes office in January. We want them to stop the move and set up an independent commission of stake holders to come up with a best solution to visibility. We do not want the Waving Girl moved unless it is to the benefit of the public as a whole and the legacy of the Waving Girl and her near 50-year likeness along River Street.
Please note, this petition has been revised since it was first posted. When it was discovered the City Council was going to side with the move, this petition was quickly created with energy and adrenaline running high. Please accept this amendment, as cooler heads have prevailed, but the passion still runs deep. If you wish to remove your name from this revised petition, or do not feel these revisions are in line with your opinion on the issue at hand, please follow the “Remove your signature” link in the email you received from Change.org when you signed.