LEWISTON — For 20 years, local florist Mike Blais has made Kennedy Park's Civil War monument part of his regular tour of Lewiston-Auburn.
"I'd drive people around and show them the Bates Mill and tell them that history and about the Civil War, and then I'd take them to Kennedy Park and tell them how it was named after the president visited," Blais said.
And then he'd get to the monument, the same one adorning city parks, town halls and courthouses across Maine and much of the East Coast. It's the same statue, with one crucial difference: Lewiston's soldier faces the wrong way.
"He has his back turned on City Hall and the center of the park — pretty much the whole city," Blais said. "And it always bothered me."
Blais is ready to do something about it. With the city's blessing, he's raised $1,600 and hired a monument-maker to turn the soldier around. They are scheduled to uproot the solider at 11 a.m. Wednesday, face him toward City Hall and put him back in place.
Blais said he learned about the wayward soldier by doing a history report in college.
That statue was purchased by the city and installed soon after the Civil War, he said. Many cities, north and south, used the same statue, designed by Sabattus-born sculptor Franklin Simmons, to adorn their memorials.
"The basic rule was, in the north, they were supposed to face south," he said. "And in the south, they were supposed to face north. It was supposed to look like they were going to war."
Lewiston's statue never faced south. Instead, city fathers chose to have it facing west, toward City Hall.
It was taken down in the 1930s for maintenance, Blais said, and put back facing east, toward Bates Street.
"One thing is clear: It was never meant to be facing north," Blais said. "It can face south, or it can face west. Right now, it faces east and that's always bothered me."
At the end of each summer, Blais' flower shop raises money for a local charity. This summer, he decided to make the soldier his cause.
"Whatever seedlings or hanging baskets we still have at the end of the year, we let people take them if they make a donation," he said. That raised $1,300. Blais and some friends donated the rest. The work is being done by Collette Monuments.