|Operated by||City of Pensacola|
|Opened||June 17, 1891|
|Location||Palafox Street, between Jackson and Gadsden Streets|
|<googlemap lat="30.420127" lon="-87.217004" zoom="17" width="288" height="180">
30.419942, -87.217015, Lee Square </googlemap>
Lee Square is a Civil War memorial park in downtown Pensacola. It is located between the north- and south-bound lanes of Palafox Street, between Jackson and Gadsden Streets. Situated atop Gage Hill on the former site of Fort George and Fort McClellan, it was known as Florida Square until renamed for Confederate General Robert E. Lee in 1889. In 1891, after years of fundraising and planning, a 30-foot monument to "our Confederate dead" was erected in the park, featuring a large granite sculpture of a Confederate soldier, modeled after a painting by John Adams Elder. The monument is dedicated to Jefferson Davis, Stephen R. Mallory, Edward Aylesworth Perry, and "the Uncrowned Heroes of the Southern Confederacy."
Stewardship of the park was turned over to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903 and was for many decades home to an annual Confederate Memorial Day (or "Decoration Day") observance on April 26. Over the years the park has been reduced in size to accommodate the increased traffic on Palafox Street, and events memorializing the Confederacy have become intermittent. The park is now maintained by the City of Pensacola's Parks & Recreation Department.
In 1881, Confederate general and future Florida governor Edward Aylesworth Perry led a movement to erect memorial in Tallahassee honoring the state's Confederate dead. Fundraising efforts were slow, with most donations coming from Perry's own Escambia County. After his death in 1899, only $3,005 had been raised, all but $87 of which from the Pensacola area.
In April 1890, the project was revived by William Dudley Chipley and its location moved to Pensacola. It would be built on Gage Hill, former site of Fort George, where "Florida Square" had recently been renamed "Robert E. Lee Park" in honor of the Confederate general. On August 15, 1890, the Ladies' Monument Association was founded to plan and execute the memorial. Angela Mallory (wife of Confederate navy secretary Stephen Mallory) was elected president, Chipley's wife Ann was vice-president, Annie J. McGuire was secretary, and Laura Thornton was treasurer.
The group contracted with Washington-based J. F. Manning & Company to build the monument for $5,000. It was to use granite from Richmond, Virginia — former capital of the Confederacy — and would feature inscriptions honoring Jefferson Davis and Pensacola's Confederate heroes. Atop the monument would be an 8-foot statue of a Confederate soldier, modeled from John Adams Elder's 1880 painting "After Appomattox" that hung in the Richmond capitol building. (The same image was used as the model of an Alexandria, Virginia monument erected in 1889.)
In March 1891, only months away from their deadline and still $1,235 short of their budget, the group began a series of fundraising events. Episcopal Reverend P. H. Whaley gave a lecture about the 1886 Charleston earthquake, followed by a benefit supper where "well-known local virtuoso" Miss Alice Kauser played a piano solo and the Pastime Club of Pensacola performed orchestral music. Tickets were 25 cents, with dinner sold separately and other items auctioned off at various prices — for example, a pickle sold for $1.00 and a glass of lemonade for $20.00. Other fundraising programs featured a presentation by an elocution class; a musical performed at the Escambia Hotel; and a series of races at Kupfrian's Park hosted by the Pensacola Driving Association.
The Ladies' Monument Association had one of their final meetings on March 19, 1891, to determine the wording of the four inscriptions and plan for the dedication ceremony. They also purchased two cannons and 800 thirty-two pound cannonballs to adorn the park. The dedication was planned for June 3 — Jefferson Davis's birthday — but was pushed back two weeks after the project foreman from J. F. Manning became ill and some of the granite shipment was lost in transit.
Most of the city's residents, plus some 3,000 visitors from around the state, attended the June 17, 1891 dedication ceremony. Railroad companies provided free transportation to soldiers in uniform who made the trip and gave a discounted rate of one cent per mile to all others.
A parade was held at 4:00 p.m. that carried a procession up Palafox Street the top of Gage Hill. An opening prayer was given by Presbyterian Reverend H. S. Yeager, after which the crowd sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee." The monument was unveiled by Miss Jennie Henderson from Tallahassee while a band played the song "Dixie." Governor Francis P. Fleming gave a speech welcoming the crowd, followed by First Baptist Church Reverend J. H. Curry and Colonel Robert Wyche Davis.
As with other memorabilia of Pensacola's Confederate heritage — for example, the Confederate flag in "City of Five Flags" displays and the Escambia High School "Rebels" mascot — the monument at Lee Square has been an occasionally controversial subject to citizens who object to the glorification of the Confederacy.
In addition, there have been sporadic debates regarding the coexistence of the park with the increasing traffic burden along Palafox Street, which carries a stretch of U.S. Highway 29. A 1939 letter to the Pensacola Journal expressed a common sentiment:
|To destroy this memorial … where all the descendants of these men and all persons might go to study the record of their heroic deeds, and receive inspiration and to also dedicate their lives to build and maintain a re-united country-such action would destroy the purpose for which Lee Square was dedicated … and this monument was builded.|
In November 1963, a revival of the Ladies' Confederate Monument Association was led by Mary Turner Rule and others to protect the size of the park from further traffic encroachments and "to enhance the beauty and significance of the square."
- W. Stuart Towns. "Honoring the Confederacy in Northwest Florida: The Confederate Monument Ritual." Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 57, Number 2, October 1978.
- Profile at City of Pensacola website