This segment of Blogs regarding Asheville’s historic structures is dedicated to Shonet Stiles, a curious and fun Canadian who, with her enquiring mind, has set in motion this segment of At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn blog history.
On a recent morning the above named guest posed some intriguing questions about our elegant and interesting Asheville architecture.
Frankly, I didn’t have the answers. I am not alone in my fervent enjoyment of our historic and beautiful downtown area but lacked knowledge of the history of some of those powerful structures and their significance to our town.
Located in Pack Square, The Vance Monument can be found. It was my first subject on the blog of historic buildings/structures in Asheville.
Those of you who have been to Asheville, N.C. will remember this tall spire in the center of downtown, likened to the Washington Monument on a much smaller scale but most of you will not understand its significance. When you do, I believe you will understand why I chose it first.
The Vance Monument takes the name of Zebulon B. Vance, a politician by trade and to his credit a zealous supporter of justice, individual rights, and local government. Acting as North Carolina’s governor during the civil war he also served in the U.S. Senate for many years before his death in 1894. Zebulon Vance was what some would call a reluctant rebel. Perfect for Asheville. Anyone who lives here can tell you that the political views found here are as diverse as the population calling it home.
The Vance Monument has been the site of anti-war protests and strong political views of every kind. Ever since that cold winter day in 1897 when a granite cornerstone was laid in honor of a Confederate christian, Zebulon Vance, who took a stand for the Jewish community this monument has become the beacon for the most cherished of First ammendment freedoms: Freedom of Religion.
Famous for his easy rhetoric, one of Vance’s most important speeches, “The Scattered Nation” in which he extolls the “the wickedness and the folly of intolerance” also recognizes the intelligence,strong family values and the lack of crime present in the Jewish community. Not politically expedient at the time of its writing, the feelings can be nothing but genuine in view of the fact that at that time there were reportedly less than 500 people of Jewish ethnicity in the entire state.
In celebration of this for more than 100 years, through decades of political unrest of all types-From the KKK years when hooded haters of all Jews, people of color and targeted religious persuasions burned crosses, torched homes and likely more horrible things in other towns of the south—- Asheville’s chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy teams up with B’nai B’rith, a national and global leader in the fight against anti-semitism to conduct a ceremony at the foot of the Vance Monument on or about May 13 each year in honor of the birthday of Zebulon Vance. The message is tolerance. He took a stand just because it was right; an atypical politician who sought his conscience rather than pander to political gain.
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