Zebulon Vance Monument, Asheville
The monument was built of rusticated granite blocks in the form of an obelisk. The square base and plinth are also granite. It was fashioned after the Washington monument and stands 75 feet tall. Aside from a small Masonic notation the only inscription when constructed was “Vance” inscribed on each side of the plinth. In 1938 the Asheville Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy added a bronze plaque above the west face inscription.
The monument had fallen into disrepair and was restored in 2015. At the June 2015 rededication another bronze plaque was placed on a small sloped granite block in front of the west face. The monument is surrounded by a black iron fence. Within the fence is another sloped granite block with a bronze inscription memorializing the capture of a piece of military equipment in World War I. This marker appears new with the restoration and may have been placed for future use.
Images: 1938 plaque | 2015 rededication plaque | Looking east | Close-up view | South corner block | With granite block dedicated to Robert E. Lee and the Dixie Highway
Disassembly and removal process in 2021:
Disassembly in progress | Fences around the removal site | Drawings on the pavement | Writings on the pavement
Plinth, all four sides: VANCE
West face, 1938 plaque: IN HONOR OF / ZEBULON BAIRD VANCE / CONFEDERATE SOLDIER, WAR GOVERNOR / U.S. SENATOR, ORATOR, STATESMAN, / MAY 30, 1830 APRIL 14, 1894 / THIS TABLET IS PLACED BY ASHEVILLE CHAPTER U.D.C. / 1938
South corner block: DEC. 22 A.L. 5897 / WALTER E. MOORE / GRAND MASTER
West side, 2015 plaque at base: ZEBULON BAIRD VANCE MONUMENT / CONSERVED AND REDEDICATED TO THE PEOPLE OF NORTH CAROLINA / BY THE ZEBULON VANCE MONUMENT PRESERVATION COMMITTEE/ THE SOCIETY FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE / 26TH REGIMENT NORTH CAROLINA TROOPS / MAY 16, 2015 / THROUGH THE SUPPORT AND GENEROSITY OF: / [Left Column] VETUST CLUB / CHRIS ROBERTS / ASHEVILLE 104-UNITED DAUGHTERS OF THE CONFEDERACT / ELIZABETH C. GRAHAM & WINSTON W. PULLIAN / THE ASHEVILLE JEWISH COMMUNITY / THE GLASS FOUNDATION / MOUNT HERMAN LODGE NO. 118 / MERCENE KARKADOULIAS BRONZE ART / PHI GAMMA DELTA BROTHER CLINT JOHNSON / BATTERY D – 1ST NORTH CAROLINA ARTILLERY REGT. / D’AUTHRECHY, EDGE, & MORGAN FAMILY / THE FAMILY OF MAJOR ABNER BYNUM CARMICHAEL / MCGUIRE, WOOD, & BISSETTE, PA / [Right column] ZEBULON VANCE CAMP 15 – SVC / DR. PATRICIA DUCKETT BROWN, ED. D. / THE VAN WINKLE LAW FIRM / COLONEL JOHN RANDOLPH LANE SOCIETY / SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS – NC DIV. / THE PORTER FAMILY / THE CITY OF ASHEVILLE / BUNCOMBE COUNTY SERVICE FOUNDATION / MEMBERS OF PHI GAMMA DELTA / FREEMASONS OF NORTH CAROLINA / KESTREL CONSTRUCTION / THE BILTMORE COMPANY / & ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS ACROSS NC / “SO THAT THE FUTURE MAY LEARN FROM THE PAST”
City of Asheville
May 10, 1898. Rededication: June 6, 2015
35.594980 , -82.551460 View in Geobrowse
"$2,000 Towards a Monument to Zebulon B. Vance," Fayetteville News and Observer (Fayetteville, NC), June 5, 1896 Link
"$2,000 for a Monument to Vance," The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), July 4, 1895 Link
"Asheville, N.C., Pack Sqaure and City Hall" in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill Link
"Asheville’s monument to tolerance," Mountain XPress (Asheville, NC), May 7, 2003, (accessed June 28, 2014) Link
"North Side of Pack Square, South Side of Pack Square, Asheville, N.C." in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill Link
"Pack Square from Noland's Corner, Asheville, N.C." in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill Link
"Pack Square," National Park Service, (accessed June 28, 2014) Link
"The Vance Monument," The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), July 9, 1899 Link
"Vance Monument on Pack Square and Main Business Section, Asheville, N.C." in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill Link
"Zebulon Vance Monument Preservation Project," 26th North Carolina Regiment, (accessed June 28, 2014) Link
Confederate Veteran, 6 (1898), p. 198. Link
Burgess, Joel. “As Asheville Demolishes Vance Monument, Lawyers File Arguments,” Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), May 20, 2021, (accessed May 30, 2021) Link
Bush, Matt. “Asheville City Council Approves Removal of Vance Monument,” Blue Ridge Public Radio, www.bpr.org, (accessed May 30, 2021) Link
Bush, Matt. “Vance Monument Fully Shrouded, Lee Marker Removed,” WFAE.org, (Charlotte, NC), July 10, 2020, (accessed July 15, 2020) Link
Butler, Douglas J. North Carolina Civil War Monuments, An Illustrated History, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2013) 57-58
Hunt, Max. "Debate over Asheville’s Confederate Memorials Continues," MountainExpress (Asheville, NC), mountainx.com, July 6, 2017, (accessed August 30, 2017) Link
Patrick, Emily. “Black History Emerges from 1987 Time Capsule,” The Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC) June 3, 2015, (accessed June 4, 2015) Link
Walter, Rebecca. “Monumental Decision: Buncombe County Approves Removal of Confederate Statues,” Asheville Citizen Times (Asheville, NC), June 17, 2020, (accessed July 17, 2020) Link
Walton, Beth. “For Some Vance Legacy as Slaveowner Clouds Monument”, The Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), March 13, 2015, (accessed August 4, 2015) Link
Wicker, Mackenzie. “Confederate Monument Removed from Buncombe Courthouse Property,” Asheville Citizen Times (Asheville, NC), July 14, 2020, (accessed July 15, 2020) Link
“Notice,” Asheville Citizen (Asheville, NC), July 23, 1897
“The Monument is Dedicated,” Asheville Citizen (Asheville, NC), May 10, 1898
“With Masonic Ceremony,” Asheville Citizen (Asheville, NC), December 22, 1897
“is It Too Late? Removal of Vance Monument Halted by N.C. Court of Appeals,” Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), June 5, 2021, (accessed June 9, 2021) Link
Vance Monument Association (primarily George W. Pack who donated $2,000, or, two-thirds of the total cost) The architect R.S. Smith, resident architect at the Biltmore House from 1895, donated his services.
The cornerstone dedication was held on December 22, 1897 in a ceremony conducted by the North Carolina Grand Lodge of Masons, with more than 70 Freemasons present. Past Grand Master H.F. Busbee explained the symbolic meaning of cornerstone ceremonies in his address. The ceremony in its entirety was printed in the Asheville Daily Citizen as was the speech of Rev. R.R. Swoop the featured orator of the day. As part of the ceremony a bronze box time capsule was laid under the cornerstone (see Subject Notes).
On dedication day, May 10, 1898, flags and buntings fluttered everywhere on buildings near the heart of downtown Asheville. The day began with a concert by the Asheville Concert Band. As members of the Zebulon Vance Camp, United Confederate Veterans marched in from the south, Tennessee Governor Robert B. Taylor; the orator for the day was escorted onto the stage. Despite the presence of Confederate veterans and being held on Confederate Memorial Day the ceremony was not an overt celebration of the Lost Cause. In a speech lasting about 30 minutes Governor Taylor made only two brief references to Vance’s service to the Confederacy, instead detailing his time in service to the United States.
After a $150,000 restoration the Vance monument was rededicated on June 6, 2015 (date on the plaque is May 15). Speeches were delivered by city leaders, fundraisers and Vance historians and plans were revealed to place a new time capsule. During the ceremony the racial strife of the 19th century was noted as was the fact that the Vance family owned slaves. City Council member Jan Davis commended efforts to raise a monument to African Americans. David Gantt, chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners also spoke on Asheville’s segregated past. He was quoted as saying, “I do think (Vance) would welcome the opportunity to tell both sides of everything. If we don’t, we’re going to repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Zebulon Baird Vance was the governor of North Carolina from 1862 to 1865 and from 1877 to 1879. He also served in the Confederate army until 1862. He is remembered for having worked hard to supply the Confederate troops and to protect the rights of North Carolina during the war. He served in the United States Senate from 1879 to his death in 1894. He was a very popular Democratic figure in North Carolina. Read more about Zebulon Baird Vance.
The Society for the Historical Preservation of the 26th Regiment North Carolina Troops, Inc. (26th N.C.) formed a partnership with the Department of Cultural Arts of the city of Asheville in 2012 to restore the Vance monument. During restoration the bronze box time capsule was removed. Among its contents was a copy of The Colored Enterprise, an African-American newspaper published in the 1890’s. Historians were aware of this newspaper but no copies were known to exist.
The granite obelisk was cut from the Pacolet quarries in Henderson County.
Following the massacre of nine African Americans in a church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015 by white supremacist Dylann Roof, Americans, especially southerners, have reflected on and argued over the historical legacy of slavery, the Civil War, the Confederacy, and white supremacy. Monuments have been a particular focus of these debates and controversies, especially after the death of a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 and after President Donald Trump expressed his opposition to the removal of Confederate memorials. Despite laws in many southern states intended to prevent or impede the removal or relocation of historical monuments, protesters and local community leaders have removed or relocated controversial monuments associated with slavery, the Confederacy, and white supremacy. The pace of the removal of controversial monuments accelerated sharply in 2020, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Against the backdrop of protests against police brutality and white supremacy across the nation, local authorities in many communities in North Carolina removed and/or relocated monuments that were the focus of civil unrest.
Given Zebulon Vance’s ties to slavery and the Civil War, the publicity surrounding restoration efforts led local activist to push for an African-American monument to be placed in Pack Square near the Vance monument. Sasha Mitchell, chairwoman of the city's African American Heritage Commission, noted that: "Communities tell the world what they value and what parts of their history matter by what they display with public monuments."
TIMELINE OF REMOVAL: 2020
Buncombe County and the city of Asheville approved a joint resolution to remove Confederate monuments located at the Buncombe County Courthouse and Pack Square Park. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved the resolution by a 4-3 vote on June 16, 2020. The Asheville City Council had approved the resolution by a 7-0 vote on June 9, 2020. The monument to the 60th NC Volunteer Regiment and a Robert E Lee Dixie Highway/Colonel John Connally marker were deemed to be the property of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The UDC was given 30 days to respond and then 90 days to remove the memorials. Al Whitesides, the only African American on the County Board of Commissioners spoke for several minutes. “I’m voting for all my ancestors that died to make this country the great country it is today,” he said. After receiving no response from the UDC the city and county acted to remove the monuments. The 60th NC Volunteer Regiment monument was removed from Buncombe County Courthouse grounds on July 14, 2020. The Lee/Connally marker had been removed from Pack Square Park on July 10, 2020. A 12 person task force was to be formed to determine how to repurpose or legally remove the Zebulon Vance Monument also located at Pack Square Park as its ownership was unclear. The resolution to remove the monuments also called for the Vance monument to be completely shrouded until its fate was determined. That task was completed on July 10 with the cost of shrouding alone estimated at $18,500. In November 2020 after looking at options to repurpose the monument the task force voted 11-1 to recommend its removal. One of the task force members, former Buncombe County Commissioner David King, said that committee members had wanted to make Pack Square a more welcoming place and keeping the monument would have prevented that.
TIMELINE OF REMOVAL: 2021
On March 22, 2021 the Asheville City Council voted 6-1 to proceed with the removal. The dissenting vote was cast by Sandra Kilgore, who is black. She argued that removing the monument would destroy an artistic structure and cause ill-will between whites and African Americans. Several lawsuits by the Society for the Historical Preservation of the 26th North Carolina Troops, Inc. to have this decision overturned were rebuffed and work to remove the monument began on May 17, 2021. Disassembly was largely complete, with only portions of the base remaining in place, when the N.C. Court of Appeals with no explanation ordered all work to stop and all portions of the monument to be retained.
Until July 10, 2020,
the monument stood in the center of Pack Square Park, near the Buncombe County Courthouse and City Hall. A granite block with a bronze plaque marking the Dixie Highway and in honor of Robert E. Lee sits west of the monument. Several hundred yards east in the immediate area of the old Buncombe County Courthouse there are other notable plaques, monuments and memorials: Western North Carolina Veterans Memorial, 60th NC Regiment, Revolutionary War, Spanish American and other wars,
Police and Firemen who died in the line of duty, Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Colonel Robert Morgan and former Governor Samuel Ashe for whom Asheville was named.
In July 2020 the monument was shrouded, but continued standing in the center of Pack Square Par until the work on its disassembly started in May 2021.
The monument stood in the center of the downtown square, surrounded by beds containing seasonal plantings.