Bay Village Architectural Commission Lies to Rest the Cocoanut Grove Plaque

September 15, 2016
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By Beth Treffeisen

The Cocoanut Grove Plaque may now lay in peace after the Bay Village Architectural Commission approved its new location at their last meeting Tuesday, September 13.

 

At the August meeting the Bay Village Commissioners agreed that the plaque needed to get approval from the commission in order to guarantee it it’s new spot and reached out to the neighborhood association to start that process.

 

The discussion was finally put to rest when Commissioner Stephen Dunwell rejected the idea of having to do a site visit with the President of the Bay Village Neighborhood Association (BVNA) Sarah Herlihy due to the Commissioners familiarity with the area and topic.

 

“The informal opinion is to leave it where it is,” said Dunwell who also is a member of the BVNA.

 

This decision comes after heated debate over why the plaque was moved from it’s original location on Piedmont Street in the Bay Village to about 80 feet down the street to a new location behind the Revere Hotel parking garage.

 

“I like to keep it where it is now because nothing can be built on it,” said Commissioner Ruth Knopf. “I just didn’t like the process of the way it was done.”

 

The plaque, that commemorates those lost during a devastating fire at the club in 1942, was originally placed at 17 Piedmont Street in 1993. This was supposedly the site of the revolving door where 40 people died, but no BVNA records make reference to its exact location.

 

During construction of the Piedmont Condominiums, the plaque was removed and then was put back in the sidewalk after completion of the project.

 

The BVNA, that owns the plaque decided to move the plaque back in May after residents showed a concern about visitors having to congregate in front of the luxury condominiums that now occupy the site.

 

“It’s in a back corner of the Revere Hotel,” said Joseph Cornish the director of design and review, who visited the site with Herlihy. “It’s a quiet area.”

 

In response Dunwell said, “If it was Italy there would be a shrine in this nook.”

 

Commissioner Thomas Hotalling had questions if the plaque was moved to a historically correct location and if the plaque reflected something specific to the revolving door, making the new location inaccurate.

 

 

But, Dunwell explained the original building was much larger than people remember it to be.

 

Where the plaque is located now, he said, “It now sits in front of center of where the club was.”

 

Also discussed at the meeting included starting the process of updating the guidelines the commissioners follow and approval of the 14-16 Piedmont Street project that included the change location of a front door and windows above from right side of front façade to the left side.

 

 

An earlier version of this article referred to the plaque as a grave but it is a memorial plaque. 

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