Progress on relocating a historical roadside marker noting Bowling Green was a former Confederate state capital has stalled, with no one coming forward to offer it a new home.
Kentucky Historical Society Executive Director Scott Alvey said no one has stepped forward to take Marker 67 after its removal from Western Kentucky University.
“The first step is that there has to be somebody willing to sponsor the marker in the community,” Alvey told the Daily News in a recent interview. Once that happens, a review process can begin, but the KHS will not relocate a roadside marker without any stakeholders’ support, Alvey said. Until then, it will likely remain in storage at the Kentucky Department of Transportation at its District 3 facility in Bowling Green.
Since it was removed from WKU’s campus in August, in answer to a written request from the university’s president, no one has contacted the Kentucky Historical Society about taking the marker, Alvey said.
“I have heard from nobody but you all,” Alvey told the Daily News when reached by phone Wednesday.
Apart from preliminary research on specific sites’ suitability in Bowling Green, Alvey said the relocation process had not moved significantly forward.
“Nothing new has happened on that to date,” Alvey said.
Relocating the marker to a new location will require demonstrated community buy-in, Alvey said. He recalled a separate marker dedication he attended for a historic church in downtown Bowling Green, one that drew several letters of support from the city, WKU and different local nonprofits, Alvey said.
Email records the Daily News obtained through an Open Records Act request showed KHS officials had discussed the Grider House, a historic Federal-style home at 1320 Park St., as a possible location.
The home’s current owners and occupants, Dr. Gordon Newell and Regina Newell, said the house is the location where the Confederate government convened during its brief occupation of Bowling Green during the Civil War.
Speaking to the Daily News last month, the Newells said the KHS had not contacted them about hosting the marker near their home.
Considering the prospect of hosting the marker on their property, Regina Newell said: “Since we haven’t had a conversation about it (with the KHS), I think it would be inappropriate to say ‘Oh yeah, we’d love to have it.’ ... It’s not for us to say.”
It now seems the KHS has abandoned the site as a new, permanent home for Marker 67. Alvey said the KHS conducted preliminary research on the Grider House but never actually approached the home’s owners about relocating the marker there.
Alvey said the KHS explored the option but that there were issues with the street it sits on and the right of way. He also said the location is unsuitable because it only briefly acted as the Confederacy’s effective Kentucky Capitol during the Civil War.
Asked about other possible locations for the marker’s reinstallment, Alvey mentioned the Warren County Courthouse as an option but said “nobody asked us” about relocating it there.
Asked about the timeline for reinstalling Marker 67, Alvey said: “There’s no timeline.”
It’s at least the second time Marker 67 was removed from WKU’s campus, the first occurring during Hilltopper Hall’s construction along College Heights Boulevard.
In August, around the same time the marker was removed, WKU President Timothy Caboni announced a new task force to consider changing “problematic” names on campus.
The namesakes of WKU’s Potter College of Arts and Letters and its Ogden College of Science and Engineering historically held people as slaves, and they came from slaveholding families, according to WKU Historian David Lee.
Caboni wrote in a campus message at the time that the group would “conduct a thorough examination of the history of WKU’s namings, explore options for how we might address those that might be problematic and make recommendations for university leadership to consider.”
However, by Oct. 13, the group had not held a single meeting, WKU spokesman Bob Skipper told the Daily News at the time. So far, the work is proceeding behind closed doors.
Asked Tuesday for an update about the task force’s progress, Skipper refused to go into details. Skipper said the group held its last meeting Dec. 15, meeting a total of six times during the fall 2020 semester. He declined to discuss the group’s work, apart from that it had been “gathering and studying information.”
“The committee understands that this is important work and continues to gather and study information,” Skipper wrote in a text message to the Daily News. “We will provide updates when appropriate.”
On Jan. 12, the Daily News placed a request under the state’s Open Records Act with WKU’s general counsel’s office, asking for the committee’s membership and its meeting minutes. On Jan. 15, WKU General Counsel Andrea Anderson responded via email and wrote that the renaming task force does not keep meeting minutes.
According to a guide to Kentucky’s Open Meetings Act prepared by the state’s attorney general: “Public agencies must keep minutes of action taken at every meeting that set forth an accurate record of votes and actions taken. These minutes must be open for inspection by the public no later than the conclusion of the agency’s next public meeting, KRS 61.835. Calling a meeting to order, and a vote to adjourn, are ‘actions taken’ within the meaning of KRS 61.835. Therefore, even if a meeting is called only to discuss public business, and no final action is taken, the minutes should reflect a call to order and adjournment.”
The following are listed as members of the university renaming task force:
- Greg Arbuckle, Dean, Ogden College of Science & Engineering
- Saundra Ardrey, Associate Professor, Political Science (Co-Chair)
- Phillip Bale, Board of Regents
- Margaret Gripshover, Professor, Earth, Environmental, and Atmospheric Sciences (Co-Chair)
- Quentin Hollis, Associate Professor, Psychology
- Michelle Jones, Associate Professor, Mathematics
- Isaac Keller, Student Government Association
- David Lee, University Historian
- Lawrence Snyder, Dean, Potter College of Arts & Letters
- Aurelia Spaulding, Communications & Marketing Coordinator, Communications & Marketing.