The timeline for reinstalling a historical marker noting Bowling Green as the former state capital of the Confederacy remains unclear after it was removed from Western Kentucky University’s campus and placed into storage at the direction of the Kentucky Historical Society.
After it was removed at the request of WKU President Timothy Caboni, who wrote in a letter to KHS Executive Director Scott Alvey that the marker made some on campus “uncomfortable,” Alvey told the Daily News the society planned to reinstall it elsewhere.
“The marker is with the Kentucky Department of Transportation at their District 3 facility,” Alvey wrote in an email to the Daily News in August. “We plan to reinstall (it) at a new location.”
In his formal request to have marker 67 removed, Caboni wrote that the marker was originally installed on a stretch of federal highway that has since come under the university’s ownership and that the marker – which notes that Bowling Green was named the Confederate state capital in 1861 – has no connection to WKU, which was established in 1906.
At the time, Caboni also wrote that the marker had alienated some on campus.
“We have been approached by several members of our campus community who have told us they find the content of the marker offensive or that it makes them feel uncomfortable because of the Confederacy’s strong connection to slavery. Recently, our Student Government Association passed a resolution asking the marker to be removed,” Caboni wrote at the time.
Alvey wrote back in agreement some days later, according to records obtained by the Daily News through an open records request. Alvey informed Caboni of plans to have the regional office of the state’s Department of Transportation remove and store the marker “as we evaluate a suitable location,” and by Aug. 19, that had taken place, Alvey wrote in a follow-up email at the time.
Reached Friday afternoon by phone, Alvey said the Kentucky Historical Society was still working on finding a new location that would have buy-in from the community.
“We’re still working on it. Most of the research is done, and we’re still trying to evaluate some sites,” Alvey said.
He did not specify a particular timeframe for when the process would be complete.
“It’s just going to take us a while,” he said, adding that it typically takes about 6 months to install a new historical marker.
Alvey said any new location would require the community’s support, adding the KHS is still determining what that looks like. Alvey said he has not yet contacted local elected officials about the reinstallation process.
Local elected officials confirmed that in earlier interviews with the Daily News. Speaking to the Daily News by phone Wednesday, Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said he had not been contacted by the society about marker 67’s relocation.
“They’ve not contacted us at all,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson only recalled a casual conversation he had with Caboni about the possibility of relocating the marker to Fairview Cemetery – where a Confederate monument stands and dozens of Confederate soldiers are buried.
But nothing seems to have come from that conversation.
Reached Wednesday, City Parks Director Brent Belcher said he had not been approached about relocating the marker to Fairview Cemetery.
Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon wrote in a text message to the Daily News that he also had not been contacted by the KHS about the marker.
“I haven’t heard anything from the Kentucky Historical Society about that marker,” he wrote, adding “I’m not sure where it is at this time.”
Additional records obtained from the Kentucky Historical Society on Sept. 10 by an open records request offer some insights into the process for reinstalling a historic marker – along with a potential location KHS staffers have been considering since the marker was first temporarily removed during construction of Hilltopper Hall at WKU.
In an internal email dated Aug. 13, ahead of the marker’s removal, KHS Community Engagement Coordinator Alli Robic wrote that “we are communicating with the Department of Transportation, as well as undertaking research for the best relocation of the marker.”
Robic also outlined the steps for reinstalling a marker as follows: “1) In consultation with the Department of Transportation, KHS would request a surveyor to be sent to the proposed location to assess it. 2) If the location is deemed appropriate by the Department of Transportation for accessibility and visibility, KHS would pull the marker’s file and assess the historical significance of the marker to the location. 3) KHS will consult with subject matter experts to assess the location and its relevance to the history of the marker. 4) If all checks out with the request and assessments, in consultation with the Department of Transportation, KHS would make the request to have the marker reinstalled. 5) The location of the marker would be updated in our online database.”
The records also indicate KHS has been conducting research to find the location of where the provisional government of the Confederacy met in Bowling Green when it was occupied by Confederate forces.
KHS staffers thought they had found that location at an antebellum-style home on Park Street in downtown Bowling Green, email records show.
The home, which they referred to as the “Grider House,” was said to be once owned by a Union sympathizer and then captured by Confederate forces when they occupied Bowling Green during the Civil War. The house is said to have served as Kentucky’s Confederate state capitol building at the time and the residence of the Confederate governor, where provisional government meetings took place.
In a subsequent email, KHS Community Engagement Administrator Amanda Higgins raised doubts about the historicity of the location, however.
“This is the house we identified too, but in doing some more fact checking, I’m concerned it’s not right,” wrote Higgins, who holds a doctorate in American history.
“We should take some more time to verify this is the right place,” Higgins wrote.