Potential of moving World War I statue stirs controversy, ‘heavy feelings’ in Kentucky town

Published: 29 August 2023

By Bill Estep
via the Lexington Herald Leader newspaper (KY) web site


The Spirit of the American Doughboy, a statue by E. M. Viquesney, stands in downtown Monticello, Ky., on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. Ryan C. Hermens [email protected]

The potential relocation of a more than 100 year old World War I doughboy statue from a busy intersection in downtown Monticello, KY is giving local residents and elected officials considerable heartburn.

Although it’s not clear if or when the move would happen, two magistrates said hundreds of residents have told them they don’t want the doughboy moved, and the commander of a veterans group said some members have talked of starting a petition against moving it. Magistrates Jeff Dishman and Jonathan Dobbs said they would favor fighting in court to keep the statue in place if it comes to that. “It’s an iconic figure that’s been there for a hundred years in the middle of our downtown,” Dobbs said.

The potential for the doughboy — the nickname for American soldiers in the war — to be moved came up as part of a project to improve a section of east KY 92 near downtown, where it is called Michigan Avenue. The road intersects Main Street at a right angle, making it difficult for large trucks to make the tight, 90-degree turn.

Trucks have hit a bank and a drug store on the corners of Michigan Avenue where it meets Main Street, said state Rep. Ken Upchurch. “It’s increasingly become a problem,” said Upchurch, a Republican from Monticello who chairs the House budget subcommittee on transportation. He has pushed the project to realign KY 92 in order to improve traffic flow.

The doughboy statue is a block away from the Main Street-Michigan Avenue intersection, but fixing the problem would involve re-routing Michigan Avenue to enter Main Street where the statue sits. It’s not set in stone that the project will require moving the statue, local and state officials said. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is developing and evaluating several alternatives, and has not chosen a design for the project, said spokeswoman Amber Hale.

The cabinet “is working with the community to find an acceptable solution,” Hale said.

The options for moving the statue include putting it in front of the nearby judicial center, where there are other war memorials; putting it in a corner of the square near where it is now; or moving it to a vacant lot less than a block away on Main Street, next to the county courthouse.

That lot was left open after a fire destroyed a building.

The Downtown Monticello Foundation bought the lot and cleaned it up as part of its effort to beautify downtown, said Rhett Ramsey, an attorney and member of the foundation board.

The base around a World War I doughboy statue in downtown Monticello was larger at one time. Photo courtesy of Ken Upchurch

Honoring Soldiers

Residents of Monticello and Wayne County started considering a way to honor local World War I soldiers not long after Allied forces, including the U.S., signed an armistice with Germany to halt fighting on Nov. 11, 1918, according to a book by the late Harlan Ogle, a local minister and historian.

A committee ultimately chose a plan to put a statue of a doughboy on a granite pedestal in a small park in the middle of town, with a plaque containing the names of local soldiers.

Read the entire article on the Lexington Herald Leader web site here:

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