A Message from Judge Jim Spears:
A Proposal for a Statue of Gen. Zachary Taylor
The idea for a statue of Zachary Taylor came from Mayor Ray Baker wanting to acknowledge Fort Smith's contact with a former president and war hero.
I came up with the idea for the location while driving by the small triangle of land at the convergence of Garrison and Rogers Ave. I realized that this was the gateway into downtown Fort Smith and just the right size for an equestrian statue. Zach was the natural. I had no idea about the cost or the process of casting a statue.
Mike Richardson at the Fort Smith Art Center introduced me to Don Offenbacker of Springdale and Santa Fe. He does bronzes and his work in on consignment at the art center. I asked Don to come up with a concept and give me a ball park figure on the cost. He did more than that. Over several years he not only drew a concept but cast it in a small bronze that is in my possession. This is the picture.
Fort Smith is almost devoid of public art. This would be a landmark. There is only one other equistrian statue in the state of Arkansas and that is a jockey on horseback at Oaklawn. The concept includes the closing of the short section of 13th street immediately behind the property and the construction of the flags over Fort Smith like the ones at the riverfront. The cost of the statue alone is around $130,000. I think that is reasonable and doable. BancorpSouth has told me they would maintain the plantings in the park consistant with the park that they have nearby. If the city can obtain the property they would be responsible for clearing it and installing the lighting and sprinkling system. The cost of the plantings, statue, and flagpoles would be paid for by a private fund drive entitled "Bring Back Zach".
I envision the school children writing essays and having fund drives to help in part. It would be a great opportunity for them to learn a little about Fort Smith's wonderful history and heritage.
Because of my position I will not be able to be directly involved in the fund raising and others will have to carry the ball on this. If you need anymore please call.
Taylor lived in Fort Smith from 1841-44. He was the commander of the military district that included Fort Smith. His house was behind the present Immaculate Conception church. The chimney still remains. The house was subseqently used for the first St. Anne's Convent and a second story added. The building burned in December 1875. Taylor went on to fame in the Mexican War and was elected president in 1848 on the Whig ticket. He died in the summer of 1850 after having attended the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington monument. His successor was Millard Fillmore.
Judge Jim Spears