Demolition of the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville began Monday and will take roughly two weeks to complete.
The 65-foot high stone obelisk in Pack Square will be taken down block by block. The city says the contractor doing the work can’t use a crane to help because of an underground parking garage at the site which won’t bear the equipment’s weight. Sidewalks in the square will be open during demolition, but the immediate area around the monument is blocked off, including the road which will be closed.
A marked Asheville police vehicle with an officer inside was at the site Monday afternoon as demolition began. Mayor Esther Manheimer says all security precautions will be taken during the removal. "This isn't an easy removal like a horse and rider (statue) where it might happen in the cover of darkness very quickly," Manheimer said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. "This is a different kind of monument to disassemble, and it will take some time."
The Vance Monument is the third Confederate Monument to be removed in the past year from downtown Asheville’s Pack Square following racial justice protests after the murder of George Floyd. A plaque with the likeness of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in front of the Vance Monument and a memorial to Confederate soldiers in front of the Buncombe County courthouse were quickly taken away last summer after activists demanded their removal.
The Vance Monument's removal took longer after both Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners created a task force to study whether it should be removed, renamed, or repurposed. The task force favored removal, and earlier this year City Council voted 6-1 to uphold that recommendation. Manheimer says the lengthy community process which led to the decision to remove was worth it. "I'm glad that it's taken some time," Manheimer reflected Monday. "I do think it was a very serious decision for our community and I wanted to be thoughtful, and I think it has been."
The Vance Monument was completed in 1898, four years after its namesake died. Zebulon Vance served in the Confederate Army before being elected North Carolina’s Governor during the Civil War. As a U.S. Senator following the war, he fought bitterly against full civil rights for Black Americans. He and his family were enslavers prior to the war. Schools named for Vance in both Asheville and Charlotte were also renamed in the past year.