70ºF

New Dozier monuments considered while historical house deteriorates

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The committee created to oversee the creation of two memorials for the Dozier School of Boys, a reform school with a hundred-year history of reported child abuse, met Tuesday to begin selecting artists.

Human remains were found at the Dozier School for Boys in an excavation in 2013. Of the remains, 40 were former students that many survivors suspect died of abuse.

Committee members suggested any memorial should educate the public about the history of the school.

"Education to remind people that school existed for 111 years," said Dozier survivor and Dozier Memorial and Monument Review Committee member Capt. Bryant Middleton.

The group narrowed down a list of 67 candidates to fewer than five.

One memorial will be built on the grounds of the Florida Capitol. The other is to be constructed on the Dozier campus in Mariana.

The total cost of the project is expected to be around $500,000, according to officials with the Department of Management Services.

But as the new monuments are considered, a living piece of Dozier history known as the "White House," a place where beatings at the school were alleged to have taken place, is falling into ruin.

"It is a memorial for a lot of us boys that (were) taken there and beat," said Dozier survivor Charlie Fudge.

Photos taken on Monday show that the grass is overgrown and apparent structural damage to the roof.

"The doors, you can't lock them," said Dozier survivor James "Harley" DeNyke.

In 2018, the 1,400 acre school property was handed over to Jackson County at no charge, but on the condition that the county would maintain and memorialize the building and a grave site known as Boot Hill.

"All they have to do is take care of a little building and a little cemetery and that's not too much to ask," said Dozier survivor Roy Conerly.

Dozier survivors said the county and the state are feuding over who should foot the bill for the repairs.

"Who's got jurisdiction? Who's going to own up?" NeNyke said.

The meeting to decide the artists for the new memorials wrapped up late Tuesday afternoon. The Capitol News Service was told by one of the commission members that five artists were selected as finalists and each artist was asked to design a concept for both the Capitol and Mariana memorials. Because they assigned two concepts, they moved the timeline back for submissions and now plan to make their final decision in January, not December as previously reported. It may take another legislative session to hammer out the details of the repairs.