Abraham Lincoln statue approved for Bronson Park in Kalamazoo


KALAMAZOO, MI — Abraham Lincoln is coming back to Kalamazoo in the form of a statue.

On Tuesday, July 5, the Kalamazoo City Commission voted to approve the final design of an Abraham Lincoln statue to honor Lincoln’s 1856 visit to Kalamazoo.

The Kalamazoo Abraham Lincoln Institute, a Michigan 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, requested city commission approval of a design proposal for the statue at Bronson Park.

In the fall of 2012, community leaders came together and created a steering committee to explore how best to commemorate Lincoln’s Kalamazoo visit, and created the nonprofit corporation.

In 2013, local representatives began working with community members and city staff on moving forward with a proposed statue in Bronson Park, according to the city.

Sculptor William Wolfe of Terre Haute, Indiana, was selected to sculpt the statue. He was one of five semifinalists.

The institute has met its goal of raising private donations for the bronze statue, the nonprofit said. The plan calls for the nonprofit to gift the statue to the city of Kalamazoo.

The statue is expected to be delivered by Aug. 1, 2023, according to the city agenda packet. Installation and dedication will be scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of Lincoln’s Kalamazoo visit, the plan states.

City documents from 2016 show the location approved for a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln. The statue will commemorate Lincoln’s 1856 visit to Kalamazoo. (Image provided by the city of Kalamazoo)

The statue will be placed on ground located in the north central part of the park, the plan states.

The city will not be responsible for any financial support to install or maintain the statue, and the Institute is creating an endowment for the ongoing maintenance of the statue, according to the city. The city said it has agreed to move an existing light pole and electrical box near the site.

The city listed several actions taken in the past:

  • In May 2013, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board approved a resolution supporting placement of the statue in Bronson Park
  • In December 2013, the city commission tentatively approved placement of the statue in Bronson Park
  • In June 2016, the city commission approved the specific location of the statue in Bronson Park

The final design approval was necessary for the project to happen, the agenda states.

One person called and asked commissioners to question the idea of ​​building the statue, and asked if Lincoln’s legacy should be honored at Bronson Park.

Commissioner Chris Praedel abstained from voting on the consent agenda item Tuesday because he serves as the secretary of the Kalamazoo Abraham Lincoln Institute, he said.

Lincoln’s Kalamazoo visit

Lincoln, who was a representative from Illinois, came to Kalamazoo on Aug. 27, 1856, to speak at a Republican Rally in Bronson Park. He was one of multiple speakers and spoke in front of thousands of people, according to a Kalamazoo Public Library article about the visit.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reported the rally, and the text of the speech appeared in the Detroit Daily Advertiser, the KPL article states.

Kalamazoo is the only place in Michigan where Lincoln made a public appearance and speech, according to the Institute. Lincoln’s speech was 2,781 words, or about 16.5 minutes, the KPL article states.

Lincoln was elected as president in 1860 and became the country’s 16th president. He won’t re-election in 1864. He was assassinated on April 14, 1865.

Abraham Lincoln

Kalamazoo has memorialized Lincoln’s visit in multiple ways over the years, starting with a boulder placed in the southeast corner of Bronson Park in 1934. A Michigan Historic Site marker was placed in the park in 1957 to celebrate the 100th year anniversary. (Malachi Barrett | MLive.com)Malachi Barrett

The city has changed features of Bronson Park in recent years. A significant change happened in 2018, when the city of Kalamazoo decided to remove the Fountain of the Pioneers from Bronson Park after it was there for 78 years.

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