Replacement Frederick Douglass monument to be installed in Aqueduct Park

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — On Wednesday Rochester Police confirmed that the Frederick Douglass monument in Aqueduct Park off of Main Street in Downtown Rochester had toppled off of its concrete base.

The statue was hauled away by the City of Rochester Special Services after the incident was reported to RPD. Police say they don’t know how or why it happened.

"I saw some things when I was here for three hours yesterday. Some very questionable forces. I’m not saying it was them," said Carvin Eison, project director of Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass.

Eison helped arrange the installation of 13 Douglass monuments across the city, including the one in Aqueduct Park, all designed by artist Olivia Kim and erected in 2018 to commemorate the abolitionist’s 200th birthday.

On Thursday a construction worker who was working on Main Street directly in front of the park said that he believes the statue fell over because the concrete base was falling apart. He did not want to be interviewed on-camera.

"I accept that,” Eison said. “It could’ve been that. But I don’t think that there were gale force winds around 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon. And I don’t think the concrete is rotting. It’s not rotting on any of the others."

This isn’t the first time one of the Douglass monuments has been either knocked over, removed, or vandalized. The first time it happened was in December 2018 at the corner of Tracey Street and Alexander Street.

It happened again in July 2020 at Kelsey’s Landing in Maplewood Park, on the anniversary of Douglass’ delivery of his famous “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” speech.

The location of this third incident is significant because it’s where Douglass published the anti-slavery North Star newspaper from 1847-1851.

Eison said it’s not surprising that this happened again, and it’s not necessarily a negative story. He said when this happens it gives him and other advocates of Douglass’s legacy the opportunity to revisit the principles on which the abolitionist stood. Eison has a backup monument on standby ready to be installed within the next week.

"When one goes down, 10 are coming back,” Eison said. “It just so happens we have another monument, it’s in my office. It’s gonna come and replace this one."

Rochester could also soon be seeing a brand new Douglass monument installed inside of the newly-renamed Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport. Like the other 13 statues, this new one will be designed by artist Olivia Kim. Unlike the others, this one will be made of bronze.