TAVARES, Fla. — Some have asked if a statue of a Confederate general that once stood in the U.S. Capitol building is too heavy to relocate to the Historic Courthouse in Tavares.
The statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith was replaced with one of civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, and the Lake County Historical Society chose to accept and display the statue.
A recent engineering report determined the historic building's floors would be able to handle the bronze statue and the marble pedestal's 8,300-pound weight.
But the report said there is no guarantee that moving the statue into the courthouse will not damage the historic building's tile floors, which were described as "irreplaceable."
"This is a national treasure, (a) one of a kind Florida memorial that's been sitting in Washington, D.C. for 100 years," said Bob Grenier, the Lake County Historical Museum's curator. "I feel that inside, and it gives me such an aura, (a) feeling to know that."
The Rev. Michael Watkins, of Friendship CME Church, said the statue has no place in a public building.
"We, in this county, are trying to build bridges and tear down barriers," he said. "We don't want to keep dividing one another. These are symbols. We know what these things were erected for -- to send a message of white supremacy."
Officials in seven Lake County cities have publicly stated their opposition to the statue's relocation.
"They all have said and sent resolutions to the fact that they do not want it to come here," Watkins said.
Lake County Property Appraiser Carey Baker, a member of the historical society, said he does not understand the opposition to the statue's planned relocation.
"When all this sort of came about -- meaning these Confederate statues -- most folks said maybe these belong in a museum," he said. "So here in Lake County, we're putting one in a museum."
Watkins said his opposition to displaying the statue is based on conviction.
"This is not a black or white issue to me," he said. "This is not a Democrat or Republican issue to me. This is a right or wrong issue to me."
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