Chapel Hill News

‘Confederate Memorial’ letters removed from Hillsborough museum

The words “Confederate Memorial” were removed this week from the Orange County Historical Museum at 201 N. Churton Street in Hillsborough, N.C. The town made its decision to remove the 1934 label following a request from the museum officials.
The words “Confederate Memorial” were removed this week from the Orange County Historical Museum at 201 N. Churton Street in Hillsborough, N.C. The town made its decision to remove the 1934 label following a request from the museum officials. rwillett@newsobserver.com

A contractor has removed the words “Confederate Memorial” from the Orange County Historical Museum doorway.

The town will store the letters in a climate-controlled location until the museum or another group asks to use them for an interpretive display about the building’s history, according to a news release.

The action, town attorney Bob Hornik has said, does not violate the state’s new law removing local control of public monuments, because the letters aren’t a permanent fixture, like a building or monument. An inscription would be protected, he said.

A special commission is developing interpretive signage to install outside the building, sometime in the next six to 12 months, town officials said. The sign will include information about the building, as well as other historic events on the property, including the N.C. Constitutional Convention in 1788.

The one-and-a-half story stone building, located at 201 N. Churton St., was built in 1934 as the Confederate Memorial Building. It was a project of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration program and initially housed the town’s public library.

A local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who donated $7,000 to help build the whites-only library, had 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.

Removing the letters will allow the museum to put its own name on the building, executive director Candace Midgett has said. It also ensures that every visitor will feel welcome, she said.

The decision followed a May request from the museum and the Historical Foundation of Hillsborough and Orange County.

The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners voted in July to remove the lettering, and the town’s Historic District Commission agreed in September, noting that removing the letters and posting a freestanding sign would be in keeping with the downtown historic district’s character.

The decision inspired area supporters of Confederate memorials and other symbols to host an August rally on Churton Street and became an issue in the fall campaign for Hillsborough’s town board.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

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