Alexandria residents divided on city’s Confederate names

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — As the City of Alexandria considers what to do with the Confederate references throughout the city, residents offered clear, but differing opinions on what should be done.

“The political correctness is probably getting a little out of control,” Alexandria resident Mark Mueller told WTOP. “History, like it or not, is the history and I don’t advocate changing names or moving monuments,” he said.

“You can’t just eradicate the entire history of the South,” added resident Poul Hertel, who was spending some time at the historic Jones Point Park. “This is South.”

Others are more frustrated over the debate than the actual subject matter.

“Everybody has an opinion and I think this is absolutely ridiculous the amount of effort and angst that has gone into this,” said Al Kalvaitis, an 18-year resident of Alexandria.

“I was raised in Maine, and of course, we won the war. I’d say leave everything the way it is. Let the Confederate be where he is and face where he is facing,” Kalvaitis said.

However, there are plenty of others who would prefer to see some new names in town.

“It is a complicated issue because the city is so based in history,” Allison Sigethy said. “That said, things change. If it’s alienating and bothering people and creating bad feelings, I have no issue with coming up with some new names.”

A panel recommended to the city council Thursday that the city should change the name of the Jefferson Davis Highway (US 1) inside the city.

“Actually, I seldom hear it called that,” Sigethy said, noting the change will make little difference to residents. “Everyone calls it Route 1, which probably isn’t the catchiest name either.”

The committee also recommended the city keep the Appomattox Statue on South Washington Street, however the city should add some context to its story.

Resident Trudi Hahn likes that change.

“This long after the Civil War, as long as the kids growing up have it is explained to them why the names are given, why they are not necessarily considered our heroes anymore,” Hahn said. “Ever since I was a child, it’s been there. [I’d want them] to provide more historical context so they would understand and I guess that’s my feeling about these streets, too.”

Regarding the streets, the panel suggested that the city consider changing the names of the roadways on a case-by-case basis, rather than making a blanket policy for all of them.

Hahn would prefer the street names not change and not just for historical purposes.

“I have it hard enough to navigate around without any changes,” Hahn said with a chuckle. “I know where Beauregard [Street] is now; don’t confuse me!”

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