Irish petition to restore name of Fitzgerald Square in Alexandria

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The naming of a place can evoke memories of the person honored. It can bring to mind the contributions of that individual to a family or to an entire city.

 

Alexandria’s history is steeped in Irish heritage and John Fitzgerald is a key figure — an Irish-American immigrant, founder of the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria, the eighth mayor of the city, and aide-de-camp to President George Washington.

 

From 2012 until this past March 17, his name was honored at the Alexandria waterfront — Fitzgerald Square. The waterfront plaza was comprised of Old Dominion Boat Club, King Street Park and the boat club parking lot.

 

Terry Riley, president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and others were shocked at the removal of Fitzgerald’s name when the square was redeveloped. It is now known as King Street Park at the Waterfront. 

 

Now, Riley and more than 1,000 people are fighting back with a petition to “demand that the City Council of Alexandria and the Planning Commission of Alexandria immediately restore the name Fitzgerald Square to the waterfront project.” 

 

Riley said the decision to remove Fitzgerald’s name came out of left field. “Who made this decision, and why is the million dollar question we would like answered,” he said. “Why didn’t they leave the interim name as Fitzgerald Square?”

 

Just weeks after President Donald Trump proclaimed March as Irish American Heritage Month Feb. 28, Fitzgerald’s name was removed. “That sudden action further confirms our concerns about the decision to remove Colonel Fitzgerald's name from waterfront project,” said Riley.

 

The change would not have sat well with Pat Troy, who died March 22. Troy was honored with a Living Legends of Alexandria award in 2010, was involved in the Old Town Association, and served on the board of governors with the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and the Alexandria Visitors Center.

 

“It was the wish of the late Pat Troy to uphold the name ‘Fitzgerald Square’ to honor the rich Irish heritage of Alexandria, especially as it is connected to the basilica,” said John Lilly, director of communications and evangelization at the basilica. “He fought hard to retain the Irish heritage and identity of our town.”

 

The permanent name of the park has not been decided, according to Jack Browand, division chief at City of Alexandria Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities.

 

“While the plan was adopted by City Council after extensive public input, the name of the new park was a placeholder and not subject to the type of focused public input normally involved in naming city parks and related features,” he said.

 

“As a result, the city will solicit public input in the coming months for the park’s permanent name, with a goal of using the selected name in conjunction with the opening of the interim park this fall and continuing its use during the flood mitigation phase and the reopening as a permanent park.”

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

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