The Fernandina Beach Historic District Council was surprised to find Peg Leg Pete on its agenda Thursday evening.
What’s the beloved downtown pirate statue doing amid discussions of architectural details, siding materials and the ongoing parking problems in Old Town now that the tourists have discovered it?
Nobody in the City Hall meeting room had a complete answer to the question.
City Engineer Charlie George was concerned that the statue was unbalanced on its perch, was carved in several pieces, and any kid could climb it, break off a piece and get hurt.
City staff confirmed that the kid’s parents, no matter how negligent, could tie the town up in a nasty lawsuit.
Then Laurence Mackie, a long-time member of the Fernandina Pirates Club, shed some light: It was the Pirates who had the original statue made sometime close to 50 years ago. The Pirates have always taken care of statue maintenance because the city didn’t want to do it. They have had to make major repairs several times, the last time being seven years ago.
Now it’s beyond repair, they think, because water infiltrated Peg Leg at some point and created wood rot in the statue’s interior. Very bad news if true.
So they hired a talented young artist to carve a new Peg Leg of solid cedar (the original Peg Leg is oak). He did a nice job, many in the room said, it looks like a really cool pirate – but it’s not Peg Leg.
“Why not?” a newcomer might ask. “It just isn’t,” someone who grew up with Peg Leg might respond.
One fact emerging from this is that Peg Leg is now part of the Fernandina Beach brand. Thousands – if not millions – of visitors have photographed that statue – often with their beloved spouses and children in front of it. Is it wise to mess with those memories, living in countless photo albums nationwide?
Clearly, answering that question is a job for people who’ve had more experience with such issues: marketers, highly experienced artists and others. Without quite putting it that way, the council unanimously voted to table the issue while Charlie George confers with the Pirates.
Oh yes, one other interesting question: What to do about the base the current Peg Leg Pete stands on? There’s a rumor around town that a sainted Pirate’s ashes are buried there.
Anybody want to handle that one?