Courthouse property owner asks UDC to remove Confederate monument

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The Confederate monument is located on the grounds of the 50 West Fourth apartments. (photo by Todd Turner)

The Richmond, Va.-based owner of the Old Forsyth Courthouse, where the Confederate statue is located in downtown Winston-Salem, has requested that the United Daughters of the Confederacy remove the statue.

Clachan Properties purchased the historic courthouse from Forsyth County in 2014, and converted it into apartments.

In a letter to representatives of the NC Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy on Tuesday, Scott Horn, a lawyer representing the owners wrote that “in order to protect the residents of the property, the owner cannot allow the statue to remain on the property. Since the United Daughters have asserted their ownership of the statue without challenge from the county, by this letter the owner is formally requesting that the United Daughters make the necessary arrangement to move the statue.”

The request was first reported by WXII 12 News.

The city of Winston-Salem has given the United Daughters of the Confederacy a deadline of Jan. 31 to remove the statue or face legal action. The United Daughters responded in a Jan. 3 press release expressing “dismay” and pledging to “do everything in our power to see that it continues to remain.” Sara Neel Powell, the new president of the NC Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy could not be reached for response to the property owner’s request.

City Attorney Angela Carmon said she hasn’t received any communication from the United Daughters in response to owner’s request.

The letter from Horn on behalf of the owners echoes the city’s request that the United Daughters remove the monument by Jan. 31.

The monument has attracted dueling protests scheduled for Jan. 13. A group of residents supporting removal of the statue is calling for people “to stand against hate and bigotry.” The Facebook event for “Get Hate Out of Winston-Salem” currently indicates that 110 people plan to attend. And a group called Heirs to the Confederacy indicate they are “still going to pray and place flowers” at the Confederate monument in Winston-Salem despite a request from the United Daughters to refrain from protesting.

The Heirs to the Confederacy event is organized by Nancy Rushton, a South Carolina resident, and Lance Spivey, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member who lives in Asheboro. Rushton and Spivey were responsible for organizing a rally at the Silent Sam monument last month that attracted a Georgia militia activist James Stachowiak, who has unabashedly advocated shooting women and children associated with Black Lives Matter protests in the back and subsequently called for “lone wolf” attacks against “antifa.” After the Silent Sam rally last month, Heirs to the Confederacy publicly disassociated themselves from Stachowiak.

The upcoming Heirs to the Confederacy event is described as a multi-stage event beginning at UNC-Chapel Hill from 9 a.m. to noon, and then moving to the Confederate monument in Winston-Salem from 2 to 3 p.m. A contradictory note appended to the Facebook event page indicates, “The Winston-Salem part of this event has been canceled. Due to a request from United Daughters of the Confederacy. As to not impair their fight to keep this monument in place. There will be a prayer and flower laying at this monument 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.”

Writing on behalf of the owners of the Old Forsyth Courthouse, which is marketed as 50 West Fourth, Horn wrote, “The owner’s primary responsibility is to the residents of the property who have the right to enjoy a quality living space without being subjected to disturbances of any kind. Unfortunately, the recent controversy, the press reports, and references to potential violence have raised serious concerns for some of the residents.”

There had been some confusion as to which entity actually controlled the statue. Horn wrote on behalf of the owner that the 2014 purchase agreement between the owner and the county specifically excluded “public monuments outside the building,” and that the owner agreed to grant the county “necessary easements to allow the county continued access to the land and building to ‘maintain and/or remove’ the monuments at the county’s expense.”

County Attorney Gordon Watkins told City Beat that the county holds no objections to the monument being removed.

“We don’t have a role in it,” he said. “We don’t own the land under it…. It’s not our decision.”

Horn wrote to the United Daughters of the Confederacy: “Notably, the owner has not granted any easement to the county with respect to the statue. Therefore, the statue is not located on public property and thus is not covered by NC Gen. Stat. § 100-2.1. No one can access the statue, or enter upon the property for any purpose without the owner’s permission.”

The letter asserts that “the owner has not and is not taking any political position, and is not being influenced by any political motives.”

The statue has turned out to be an ambiguous asset for the owner. Clachan Properties’ website includes a photo of the statue in a solicitation for renters of its spacious two- and three-bedroom apartments equipped with hardwood and stained concrete floors and granite countertops.

The owner emphasizes the historic aspect in marketing the property. In an August 2015 marketing video, a narrator touts the apartments’ “historic charm infused with a modern, luxurious style of living.” A more somber effort, posted in December 2017, includes footage of the statue.

Ultimately, the owner determined that the statue impeded its residents’ ability “to enjoy a quality living space without being subjected to disturbances of any kind.”

The letter closes by saying, “If the United Daughters elect not to remove the statue as requested, the owner will have no choice but to explore other available options, including cooperating with the city on the proposed relocation of the statue to Salem Cemetery.”

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