ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — Things look very different in downtown Asheville. That’s because, after standing tall for more than 120 years, the Vance monument has now been taken down, stone by stone.
It’s a noticeable absence.
The Vance Monument, which stood in the middle of downtown Asheville since 1897, is gone. The controversial structure carried the name of Zebulon Vance, a former Confederate military officer, North Carolina governor, and U.S. senator.
“Definitely a huge step forward. Surprised it didn’t happen sooner,” said Asheville resident Jason Collins.
“My thought is, why didn’t they simply sandblast the name, ‘Vance,’ and just dedicate it to something else? It would have been a far cheaper solution,” said Gary Byrne, of Asheville.
“More than symbols, it’s about actual change as opposed to symbolic change,” said downtown busker, “The Verse.”
City council voted to remove the Vance obelisk in March 2021, following the recommendation of the Vance Monument task force. The task force was created in June 2020.
From there, appointed members discussed the monument’s fate for weeks before deciding removing it was the best course of action.
Then March, the final say from city council came down.
“From my perspective, this has been a long time coming, and I look forward to a new chapter for our city,” said City of Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer. “I’m excited about our future and planning for a new symbol of our city.”
The monument’s absence creates a tangible dialogue.
“For some people regarding the whole race issue — slavery — the destruction was a powerful statement and maybe that’s the value of it,” Byrne said.
“I’m fine with it being gone,” Collins said.
Others say the monument may be gone, but that it’s just symbolic, and that more needs to be done for racial equity.
“We need real change on the ground and not just for media — not anything like that It has to be felt on the ground, like on the outskirts of Asheville where the real change is supposed to be seen. It’s all about finance. It’s all about equity. It’s all about action,” said “The Verse.”
Just the pedestal remains for now, as residents speculate what should go in the monument’s place.
“I say, just leave it open,” Collins said.
A temporary site, which could feature landscaping and a flower bed installation, is expected to be put in its place.
“Something that’s reflective of what Asheville is today,” Byrne said. “Maybe they’ll put some feelers out and ask the public.”
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