© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Your source for information and inspiration in Western North Carolina.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Final steps in demolition of Asheville’s Vance Monument to begin this week

The remaining base of the Vance Monument, captured July 2023.
Laura Hackett/BPR News
The remaining base of the Vance Monument, captured July 2023.

It’s the beginning of the end for Asheville’s Vance Monument.

Beginning Tuesday, the city will take its final steps in the demolition of the remaining base of the Confederate monument, according to a press release. The process will take about two months.

“The contractor expects the removal work to be completed by mid-July,” city spokeswoman Jessica Hughes said in Monday’s release. “Soon after, a local minority-owned landscaper will install plantings in the former monument area, which was previously determined as a short-term treatment for the site. An updated landscaping contract is currently being finalized, and that work will begin as soon as possible following the completion of the removal.”

The Asheville Parks and Recreation Department will provide ongoing maintenance.

The monument – a towering stone obelisk at the heart of downtown Asheville in Pack Square – was erected in 1897 in tribute to Zebulon Vance, a former North Carolina governor, senator and Confederate officer. In the wake of 2020’s nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, the Asheville City Council voted in 2021 to remove the monument, which for many was a painful symbol of racism. Vance and his family had enslaved Black Americans, and during his years in political office, Vance had championed white supremacy and fought against Black Americans’ civil rights.

The stone obelisk was dismantled piece by piece and stored in an undisclosed location. But a legal battle paused demolition before the monument’s base could be removed.

A Confederate history preservation group known as the 26th North Carolina Regiment sued to force the reinstallation of the monument, which it had paid to restore in 2015. After years of legal wrangling, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the group in March, clearing the way for the city to proceed with the removal of the monument’s base.

A graphic showing the Vance Monument work zone.
City of Asheville
A graphic showing the Vance Monument work zone.

The Asheville City Council in late April ratified a $99,402 contract with Chonzie, Inc., for the removal of the base. The company is the same one that performed the removal of the obelisk.

A new wrinkle in the case took place last week, when the 26th North Carolina Regiment filed a lawsuit in Buncombe County Superior Court seeking a restraining order and preliminary injunction in an effort to halt the removal of the base, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

In a statement Monday, City Attorney Brad Branham said the city intends to proceed with the removal “until or unless another court ruling dictates otherwise.”

“The City maintains its position that the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the City’s right to remove the monument by way of its March 22, 2024 unanimous decision rejecting the plaintiff’s appeal,” Branham said. “That decision cleared a path for the City and community to move forward with a new vision for Pack Square.”

Interestingly, while Asheville has dismantled its monument to Vance, a statue of the former governor remains in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Each state is represented by two statues in the Capitol building, and until this week, those two have been Vance and former North Carolina governor Charles Aycock. Aycock’s statue will be replaced on Thursday by a statue of the late Rev. Billy Graham, following an effort led by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).

Laura Hackett contributed to this report.

Felicia Sonmez is a reporter covering growth and development for Blue Ridge Public Radio.