Mayor: ‘Fame’ relocation could begin as soon as this week

Published 5:34 pm Monday, June 22, 2020

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — With the local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter signing an agreement to relocate the “Fame” Confederate statue five days early, Mayor Karen Alexander says the process of storing and moving the statue to its new location could begin this week.

The Robert F. Hoke chapter of the UDC late Sunday agreed to the city’s plan to relocate “Fame” after exchanging questions and answers with Alexander over the weekend. On her way home from a weekend at Beech Mountain, Alexander said she met the UDC president and picked up the signed and notarized agreement.

The agreement was mailed to the UDC on Wednesday, and the chapter signed five days before the deadline of June 26.

The Salisbury City Council unanimously agreed at a meeting June 16 to relocate the statue to a historic cemetery on North Lee Street where Confederate soldiers are buried. In the agreement, the city will handle the costs of storing the statue and then relocating it to its new location at the cemetery. The city will then grant a deed for the new location to the UDC, which will assume full ownership and responsibility.

The specific site outlined in the agreement is within the eastern portion of the historic cemetery, which is bound by existing grave markers, brick and stone along East Franklin Street and the North Carolina Railroad as well as an opening in the stone wall along East Franklin Street.

Alexander said the city’s Public Works, City Engineering and Purchasing departments are currently at work to determine the best and quickest process for the statue’s storage and relocation. The process could be completed by a contractor already working for the city, multiple contractors or Public Works employees, if needed. Alexander noted there are ongoing conversations about how to dismantle the base of the statue, which may take longer.

While Alexander said the city doesn’t yet have an exact cost for the entire move; the city manager has estimated the cost to the city for the move will amount to $45,000.

At least $65,000 has been raised to add site amenities to the new location by descendants of the original UDC members who dedicated the monument and local historic groups. The Historic Salisbury Foundation has agreed to serve as the fiduciary agent to oversee those funds. Ed Norvell, one of the descendants of the original daughters who erected the statue in 1909, played a key role in gathering the funds to cover the proposed site amenities. The goal is to have some money in reserves for future repairs or maintenance, if needed.

Those anonymous donations have gone to either the Historic Salisbury Foundation directly or to the Foundation for the Carolinas, which serves as a “holding agent” for funds until they’re directed to the appropriate cause.

The proposed site amenities include an 8-foot-high wrought iron fence erected around the monument as well as security cameras to ensure the statue is preserved and protected.

Historic Salisbury Foundation Executive Director Sada Stewart said the foundation agreed to the plan during the weekend of June 13 and 14. She emphasized the foundation only has a short-term role in the agreement.

Alexander said any decisions regarding future renovations, repairs or maintenance will require a cooperative decision made between the UDC and Historic Salisbury Foundation. She added future modifications could require building permits or contractors.

Stewart said the foundation is pleased with the agreement because it is an effort to “preserve the historic fabric of Salisbury and Rowan County” as well as work toward equity within the community.

Norvell said the UDC likely expedited their agreement with the plan because it didn’t want to see the statue torn down or damaged in a manner similar to what happened Friday night in Raleigh. There, protestors pulled down two statues of two Confederate soldiers that were part of a larger obelisk, with one strung up by its neck from a light post.

Norvell added that he reached out to some other descendants and members of the Black community who advocated for the relocation. All were “pleased this was resolved amicably.”

He added the new location is safe and “contemplative” because it can help tell a story in the future about Salisbury’s history.

Aaron Kepley, executive director of the Rowan Museum, played a role in connecting the city with the UDC chapter. He said the relocation is a “win-win” as the alternative option would have been to put the statue in storage with no guarantee it would be displayed again elsewhere in the community.

Normally, such plans for relocating historical pieces would need approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. But since Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes and the city council deemed “Fame” a public safety issue with a vote at the June 16 meeting, city attorney Graham Corriher has confirmed a certificate of appropriateness is not required from the Historic Preservation Committee. He said a COA will be required for the new site, but he doesn’t anticipate it will be an issue obtaining one based on the signed agreement.

Alexander said all the efforts with the relocation required a long process, but she’s grateful for all those involved and who came together around a resolution in a lawful and peaceful way. She added the peaceful effort “speaks volumes to our community.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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