By Matt de Simone
Last week during a public hearing at the Botetourt County Administration Center in Daleville, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors voted to “table” the proposal to move the Confederate Monument in front of the County Courthouse in Fincastle. The monument was vandalized last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death, which led to the removal of similar statues and memorials across the country that were deemed contentious by some Americans.
The memorial recognizes the men and women in Botetourt County who fought for and supported the area and their soldiers during the Civil War.
The Courthouse Committee presented no plans related to the ongoing Botetourt County Courthouse renovation proposals, which play into the memorial’s possible relocation. Without specific details or visual methods regarding courthouse construction, the board felt that it would be best to hold off making any decisions until the committee presented proper plans.
The public hearing featured the Botetourt County community members stating their impassioned questions, concerns, and suggestions regarding the monument’s potential relocation initially erected in 1904.
One citizen stated that a referendum should be to decide on whether or not to move the monument. He said that Botetourt County Board of Supervisors should not decide, but a vote by the county’s citizens should be the determining factor.
Another citizen added, “As Botetourt’s slogan says, ‘Honoring the past, searching the future’—let’s honor this monument as a durable piece of Botetourt’s history. Don’t desecrate it or the heritage of those soldiers, their ancestors, and their living relatives with shifting public policy. Leave it be where it is.”
Last January, a proposal made by the Courthouse Committee requested relocating the monument across the “square” and re-erected in front of the old jail or the southern region of Fincastle close to Route 220. However, there expressed concern remains from the board and citizens about possible damage the monument could suffer from the move.
Board representative Steve Clinton later responded to the individuals who opposed the move last week stating, “The reasons for opposition varied, but mostly centered around concern that relocating the Monument would undermine local historic heritage, and would be disrespectful of ancestral family legacies.”
“The Monument issue is made more complex because it is occurring simultaneously with the upgrade of the circuit court building,” Clinton continued. “This upgrade will result in a reconfiguration of the circuit court building itself and of the surrounding courthouse square. Until that reconfiguration design is complete, we will have no visual image of the Monument against the backdrop of the reconfigured courthouse or within the new courthouse square.
As a result of these critical unknowns, the Board decided to table a decision on the Committee’s report until the design of the courthouse and its surrounding ‘square’ is further along.”
Clinton hopes that a concept design will be made available to the Board and to the public at the next board meeting in April.
“Whether or not the Monument’s location affects the design of the courthouse is dependent on a number of factors, including the size of the ‘footprint’ of the redesigned courthouse, the street setback requirements, etc.” Clinton concluded. “Most of these factors are unknown at this time. In all likelihood, however, the Monument will not affect the building design.”