The town passed its final hurdle Wednesday to removing the words “Confederate Memorial” from the Orange County Historical Museum.
The town’s Historic District Commission, in a 4-0 vote, agreed that removing the letters above the museum’s door and posting a freestanding sign would be in keeping with the character of Hillsborough’s downtown historic district. The museum, built in 1934 as a town library, is a contributing structure to the historic designation, officials said.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy, who donated $7,000 to help build the whites-only library, had the solid copper letters screwed to the building’s facade to honor Confederate soldiers. The words “Public Library” were removed when the museum opened in the 1980s.
Officials have said the change will allow the museum to put its own name on the building, while making sure every visitor feels welcome.
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The board, in its decision, noted that some letters had been removed and those remaining were screwed on, meaning they weren’t permanent. The letters also are small and barely noticed, they said, adding little significance to the historic district.
Removing the letters does not violate the state’s new law removing local control of public monuments, town attorney Bob Hornik said, because the letters aren’t a permanent fixture, like a building or monument. An inscription would be protected, he said.
Commission Chairwoman Anna Currie recused herself from the vote, because she had spoken on the issue at a Town Board meeting. The board approved removing the words in July, but the Historic District Commission was required to approve the appropriateness of the change.
There is no timeline for installing the new sign, town Planning Director Margaret Hauth said. A special commission is writing an inscription about the site’s history, including the recent controversy, to be posted to the left of the Churton Street entrance.