SCHUYLERVILLE — If the statue of Gen. Philip Schuyler in Albany is going to be moved, it probably won’t be to the National Park Service’s Schuyler House in Schuylerville.
The Park Service generally discourages statues and monuments that could distract from a historic park’s core mission, and such monuments generally need the approval of Congress, said Amy Bracewell, the superintendent of Saratoga National Historic Park.
“Outside of the District of Columbia and its environs, commemorative works must be authorized by Congress or approved by the National Park Service director,” Bracewell said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. “The NPS discourages the placement of commemorative works in parks that can divert attention away from the important resources and values for which the parks were established.”
The Park Service’s position throws more cold water on the idea circulated among some local officials that the statue located opposite Albany City Hall could find a new home in Saratoga County, where the Schuyler family in the 18th century had large land holdings.
As the nation continues to grapple with its legacy of racial inequality amid the protests following the May 25 police death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan last Thursday ordered removal of the statue, which has been criticized because in pre-Revolutionary War New York, Schuyler owned the largest number of slaves. The statue has been at the location near the state Capitol for nearly 95 years, commemorating his link as one of the nation’s founding fathers to the city, where he lived.
If the statue is being moved, Schuylerville Mayor Dan Carpenter and others have said Schuylerville would be a good location for it, and suggested the Schuyler House site in the village, part of the Saratoga National Historic Park holdings. The park primarily commemorates the 1777 Battles of Saratoga, but includes the Schuyler property, where the family owned a home and land. Schuyler served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and key events of the British surrender occurred on Schuyler lands in and around Schuylerville.
Bracewell said the Park Service understands that historic monuments are receiving new attention as the nation confronts its legacy of racism and injustice.
“The Schuyler Estate in Schuylerville is an excellent example of a historic site that embodies all of the complexities of our collective history,” Bracewell’s statement said. “General Philip Schuyler was a leader of his time — a military general, an entrepreneur, and a ‘founding father’ to this nation. He is also a reflection of this tumultuous time in our nation’s history. He was an Indian agent and an owner of enslaved peoples. The Schuyler Estate served as a working northern plantation, a place where General Schuyler made his fortune from the work of enslaved people.”
“It is a place that holds all of these truths together, and explores the diametrically opposed ideas of freedom for a new country with the enslavement and marginalization of human beings,” the statement continued. “The park is a safe place for everyone to come to wrestle with the complexities of our collective history. The National Park Service preserves this site, and many others, as hallmarks of American progress and our ability to learn from our history.”
After U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, on Friday added her voice to those of local officials seeking to move the monument to Saratoga County, Sheehan’s office said the city’s plans are to keep the Schuyler statue in Albany, but somewhere where the context of Schuyler’s slave ownership can be put in perspective.
Despite the National Park Service’s position, Carpenter hasn’t given up on the idea of moving the statue to Schuylerville, which is named for the Schuyler family, but not Philip Schuyler specifically.
“I spoke to [Sheehan’s] office yesterday. I left an open invitation for her to discuss it if the city changes its mind, and if the city is willing to discuss it I would hope we could work with the National Park Service,” he said.