General Bernardo de Gálvez returned to Pensacola Tuesday morning as the Pensacola Heritage Foundation unveiled a statue of the Revolutionary War hero. Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward and a crowd of a couple of hundred people watched and cheered as the statue on the corner of Palafox and Wright Streets was unveiled.
"It's taken us a while to get here, but it's going to be a beautiful thing when we're finished with it" said Jim Green, the Chairman of the Gálvez Steering Committee and a member of the Pensacola Heritage Foundation. He says there were some issues with the design and the location of the monument that caused some added delays since ground was broken on the project a year ago to the day. "In our original drawings we had some water features here. And we ran into some issues with the water table and some electrical concerns that we had because this monument is going to be lit at night. That gave us some concern so we scrapped the water feature and that delayed us. We had to go back and redo a lot of the drawings".
A small troop of Spanish soldier re-enactors were in costume and shot a salute to the monument at the event. About three dozen people from Spain were in attendance in the crowd to honor their native son. Nancy Fetterman, a local historian who has been working for years on honoring General de Gálvez recognized them at the ceremony.
The statue itself was created by retired Navy Capt. Robert Rasmussen and his daughter Katherine Vincze. He says the project took a lot of time and a lot of work. "And a lot of research, and a lot of studying" said Rasmussen, "because we had never [sculpted] a horse before. So we had to do a lot of work getting the right muscle structure for the horse and that took a lot of work and a lot of time." Vincze said they also had to make sure the horse was the right size. "We [ended up with] a few extra feet of body on the horse originally" said Vincze. "He was a little too long. But we were able to cut him in half with a Sawzall and start at the right size."
Now that the statue has been officially dedicated and unveiled, work on the monument will continue for another few weeks as granite will be added around the base, bronze plaques will be erected and the names of individual donors to the project will be engraved around the immediate area. Outgoing Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward reminisced about the beginnings of the project, which coincided with the beginning of his administration "History is critical to the success of a country, of a state and most importantly of a city. We are America's first settlement, so let's continue to tell that story."
According to the Pensacola Heritage Foundation, the original for the project was $400,000. However with the added costs of redesigning the monument, that number grew. The foundation says that so far, they have raised over 90 percent of the project’s final cost.