If you have ever been to Downtown Asheville, you can’t help but notice the huge stone obelisk just west of the Buncombe County Courthouse, in Pack Square. It’s been the center of controversy, and seems to be the location of choice for protests. It’s the Vance monument, it was built as a monument to Zebulon Baird Vance, former Confederate Army officer, two-time North Carolina governor, and US Senator.
The idea for the monument was proposed in 1896, when George Willis Pack, (whom Pack Square is named after) offered to donate some land for a new courthouse, with the stipulation that the city also build a memorial for Vance. The groundbreaking was in October 1897, and the memorial was dedicated to Zebulon Vance, on February 25, 1898. The land between the courthouse and the Vance monument became a park, also per the stipulation stated by Pack. Over the years, that area of land has had many faces, but the Vance obelisk has stood the test of time.
As I mentioned before the monument has been the center of controversy, mostly centering around the subject of racism. Vance was a slave owner, and this upset the African-American Heritage Commision. They have stated that in the pre-Pack Square days, the area was where slaves were traded and the Bill of Sale for these events were recorded. The AAHC has recently filed a petition for an African-American memorial to be built somewhere in that area. In June of 2015, and January of this year the monument was vandalized with the phrase “Black Lives Matter”, which is the name of a civil rights movement for anti-racism and a strike against police brutality.
No matter what the history of the Vance monument is, it has always been a prominent part of Pack Square, and Asheville. Teens hang out around there, families love to meet there, because it’s easy to find, and when it’s Christmas time, the Square is beautiful. There is so much more history on the monument, and the city of Asheville, in general, so keep a lookout, you never know when we might throw another little historic nugget at you!
For the full complex history on Vance monument, go to: