Piling the $$$ on Cemetery Repairs

According to the right, liberals love to throw money at things. This is just what Dorothy Verkerk and Edith Wiggins did with the cemetery repair issue last Monday night. There was controversy over how to spend the $150,000 allocated to the repairs, so they came up with the idea of spending another $70,000. And, thanks to Mayor Foy's readiness to bang the gavel, a $40,000 cost savings proposed by Cam Hill was not even discussed.

Here's how Cam Hill described the problem in a letter to Foy:

I had met with Gaines Steer (of the Last Unicorn) and Bill Wyatt (an associated welder) and they had assured me of two things:

#1. That the Di/Phi fences are in no immediate danger of irredeemable deterioration. We need not be in any hurry to restore these fences; we can explore all possible options.
#2. There are lower cost alternatives to the proposed $52,000 restoration proposal.

Last night Bill Wyatt appeared before us and eloquently explained both points. I spoke briefly to my belief that we could save money by using a different approach than the one that had been suggested by the cemetery committee. I said (and still believe) that spending $52,000 to restore these fences was fiscally irresponsible when the job could be done for less than $20,000. I proposed that we use the savings to fix the gutters at the east end (the African American section) of the cemetery. I had a motion ready to such effect.

I will have more on the dynamics surrounding this discussion in my Saturday Herald column. For now, it seems that Hill is the fiscal conservative on the Council; Verkerk and Wiggins the "tax-and-spend" liberals.



I apologize for having been out of town for a while, and therefore not reading every comment here. I don't know what the difference between cast and wrought iron has to do with this.

When I saw this project presented, I thought a number of council members were quite right in pointing out that it prioritized the Di Phi fences over historical slave grave markers. Personally, I would choose the graves over the fence, they are just more significant to me. The fact that Di Phi is an existing insitution, with lots of smart students and alumni to suppotrt it, just adds to this feeling.

None of this nitpicking over types of iron changes the fact that the graves of slaves who built the University feel more important to me than the fence (which may be artistically and/or historically significant) that commemorates an existing student debate society. When I was a student at UNC, the housekeepers did a lot more for me than the Di Phi society - so that's who my debt of gratitude is for.

I agree with Ruby. I thought Yonni Chapman's presentation last Monday was compelling. He pointed out how the differences in the parts of the cemetery reflected the white supremacist society that dominated both UNC and Chapel Hill for their first 150 years. He explained how decisions on maintenance, allocation of funds, and even the way tours are conducted institutionalize the racism of a largely bygone era.

I thought this was the most important point in the whole discussion and arguably the most significant aspect of the cemetery as a historic marker.

It was disappointing subsequently to hear Edith Wiggins on the radio saying she thought Yonni was lecturing the Council. Her comment was particularly unfortunate given that the just resolved MLK renaming discussion emphasized the importance of understanding our racial history, a history that Yonni has dedicated himself to studying. Of course, as a graduate student, Yonni very likely often does "lecture" on such topics, but not in the pejorative sense meant by Wiggins.

I, for one, would be interested to know what Cam Hill's approach would be. This website (http://architecturaliron.com/aic/NavIndex.htm) describes their restoration process. The salvage original ironwork wherever possible.

Mr. Wyatt did not address this part of the restoration process, that is, how he would clean up wrought iron for repainting. He only talked about recasting. I'm sure there are parts that will need to be recast, but surely most of the fence can be salvaged. I'm just curious to know if he was talking about replacing the fences, or restoring them. These are two different things, because replacing the fences would destroy their historical significance.

Also, what did he mean by "making two into one"? If he means to alter the fences from their original configuration, that would compromise their historical value, too.

Is the company Mr. Wyatt mentioned Southern Cast, Inc. in Charlotte? They have a website http://southerncastinc.com/) and they don't mention historical restoration as part of their expertise. I know the council doesn't need to be reminded to take references and certificates into consideration when they take bids for this project.

Here are links to the story and an editorial in today's CHH.



First of all, the vote was for an additional $50,000 not $70,000. Second, the $40,000 cost savings was the difference of opinion between historical preservation experts and a local welder. The council appointed a group of citizens with professional knowledge to recommendation how to best care for the cemetary. Then they challenged the opinions of those professionals, according to the newspaper. But what I heard was three different debates. Edith and Dorothy wanted to move forward with the citizen recommendations; adding to the budget was a strategy for moving forward. Sally Greene and Mark K were in favor of protecting the cemetary per the citizens' recommendations but wanted to find non-city funds to do so. Cam and Bill were more focused on this being a tight budget year. Maybe I'm crazy, but the discussion I heard wasn't as simplistic as has been reported.

Here's what I haven't seen reported:
The committee recommended restoring the iron fences which meant there were not enough funds left in their budget to repair markers that had been damaged and repaired within the past 10 years. The additional $5,000-$50,000 (per the discussion) was earmarked for marker repair. What neither Dan nor the Herald Sun reported is that the additional funds will not be distributed until the citizens' committee comes up with a plan for protecting the cemetary from continued vandalism.

Sally Greene read from the documents describing the cemetary according to the Historical Register and then from an art historian(?). It was really good stuff and I'm sorry I wasn't awake enough to remember more specifics.

Actually, it was $70,000. 20k added by the committee; 50k added by Wiggins.

Terri, your language reveals a bit of bias. Why don't you say "a difference of opinion between a local historical preservation expert and a local expert practitioner in iron restoration"?

I tried to post this but it didn't go through. Will try again.


To make a long story short, Sally Greene pointed out that to be on the National Register, the cemetary had to qualify under one of two criteria. The cemetary meets both criteria because of the fences and the African-American section. So the cemetary would have qualified even if the fences were not there.

She questions the use of public funds to give preference to one project over another. She didn't mention institutional rascism, but she referred to the comments made by one speaker who talked about it. (So, Edith's reaction was not entirely out of the blue).

Edith said that Sally's comments made her feel even more that the setting aside $50,000 (in addition to the $20,000 the task force requested) for to repair markers and deter vandalism was the right thing to do. She feels that they can do both projects.


The man referred to himself as a welder and gave his honest opinion without pretense. Some of us could learn from that.

A strange comment on our culture: a welder does not need to discount someone else's opinion to assert his own, but (in this case, at least) an academic does.

Neither Hill nor Wyatt put down anyone else in making their case. Only Verkerk and (to a much lesser extent) Buckner did that.

My point to Terri should perhaps be made more directly: why is the welder "local" but not the historical preservationist? why is the preservationist "expert" but not the welder?

In fact, both are local and both are experts. One failure of the Council on Monday was to not take advantage of both their expertise, needing to discount one in order to privilege the other.

Are you implying I exhibited a bias against a blue collar worker Dan? After 15 years as a typographer (blue collar), I have a great deal of respect for people who work in the trades. But welding is a solution to a defined problem. In this case the defined problem was preserving a community treasure to ensure that it's available in its original form for future generations.

The Council had a choice between staying within budget or making a choice between funding proper care and respect for the African American portion of the cemetary (historical markers, lighting, drainage) or the proper care and respect of white history (fences). By deciding to increase the budget rather than privileging one section of the cemetary over another, IMHO they made a wise (albeit narrow) decision to value history.

There was virtually no discussion about whether or not to add $50,000 to the budget for the parking deck project. I'm with Edith on this one. Why is it OK to add money to the budget for new development and not for historic preservation?

I'm against doing anything to the ironwork. To me it is like taking the finish off an old piece of furniture, the wear and patina on the metal is part of the look and feel. Old metalwork in an old cemetary should look old.
Making one from two is out of the question and shows a lack of respect for what is there. The fact that Mr. Wyatt, a welder, thinks the ironwork is not in immediate danger of corroding away encourages me that he is not a hack looking for work.
So many unique examples of ironwork are vanishing, not so much to corrosion but to the time honored tradition of stealing from the dead. During WWII unscrupulous cemetary owners made it patriotic to donate fences and gates for scrap metal for the war effort when in fact it was so they could mow where once sheep and visiting families kept down vegetation. In Greenwood cemetary in Brooklyn NY photos are prohibited because collectors would give them to thieves to get the items they wanted. Now if you are photographing there without permission ever present security either arrest you, destroy your film or both.
I have been welding gates and rails since 1980. I have a BFA in sculpture and two apprentice 1st class certificates, one in ceramic shell casting and one in sand casting from a technical sculpture institiute. I managed the foundry for School of Visual Arts in NYC for five years, have taught metal sculpture, had a welding business and currently manage the Art Lab for UNC. I have a deep abiding respect and love for ornamental metal work, my opinion is that the less done the better.


It was Mr. Wyatt who suggested "making one from two." That suggests to me that he is not an expert in historical preservation. I would just like to know if the $10,000 he quoted was to restore the fences or replace them.

Part of what is bothering me about this issue is the timing of the new expert voices. While I am sure the group of citizen *volunteers* would be happy to hear from the local experts and interested citizens, these voices should have spoken up before the committee finished their recommendations. While it is certainly the council members responsibility to challenge citizens recommendations, why didn't Cam suggest a meeting with Gaines, the welder, and the committee months ago? At least weeks ago when the committee was asked to take a second shot at the fences budget. Challenging recommendations is responsible governance, but those challenges should come early enough in the process that they can be used to constructively inform final outcomes. .

Pat--I would suggest that you contact Dorothy Verkerk directly if you would like to offer your expertise: dverkerk@nc.rr.com.

The $10,000 was a ballpark quote for using the existing fence as a pattern for casting new pieces to replace the few missing ones. This was just to show that if someone insisted on casting new pieces that it need not cost $52,000. No one has seen the committee's quote, so we do not know what it covers except "new castings". I believe that the appropriate thing would be to re-set the fences level (after removing stumps, etc.), make minor repairs (reconnections, etc.) and repaint if desired (they have been previously painted). Using this approach ALL the fences in the cemetery could be fixed up for about $10,000 (I think). This would free up $42,000 for needed repairs elsewhere (gutters, marker restoration). I have always believed that the cemetery has too many needs for us to devote such a large portion of these one time funds to such a small area (the Di/Phi fences). UNC neglected these fences for years and then we are supposed to fix them using HALF the money they gave us for the entire cemetery.
At any rate there is no need to rush into this......

Donna, From what I read Mr.Wyatt presented himself as a welder, not a preservationists.
It has been a few years since I looked at the metal work in question. I'm going out there tomorrow to see what it looks like and I'll post back my unsolicited opinion.

A couple of points about town government:
1) the town council approves all sorts of expenditures without much discussion. Usually this is because the expenditures are part of ongoing processes where the expenses are already understood as legitimate. It helps when the item is in the Council's packet with a manager's recommendation. This was the case with the parking lot project which is why Wiggins' raising it is little more than provocative and inflammatory (why did she pick that project rather than dozens of other budget items she might have selected?). Wiggins also neglected to tell you that she joined the unanimous Council in voting for the downtown development project. She did so again Monday night even after pitching her little fit during the earlier discussion.

2) On the other hand, if a Council-member pulls a big expenditure ($50k is pretty big) out of her hat during a meeting with no warning, you can be pretty sure it will be discussed. Indeed, the council has a responsibility to have that discussion.

3) On how the Council uses committees: the council does not "challenge" committee recommendations. Such recommendations are advisory only and the Council can do with them as it sees fit. If it disagrees, it can send the matter back to the committee, do more research itself, send it to staff, or any combination thereof. I doubt that there is any town committee that has not had a recommendation modified or rejected by the council.

A point I should have made earlier is that this entire discussion should not have been necessary. The Council agreed on everything except the Di-Phi fence repair. A more functional council might have approved everything else and scheduled another meeting to consider options on the fences. They could have addressed the committee recommendation in its particulars, gotten details on the Bill Wyatt position, looked at various funding options, and perhaps even talked about long term maintenance.

As Cam wrote, where's the rush?

Mr. Hill,

It seems that your estimate, then, would not include stripping the fences to bare metal then repainting. Is that correct?

Coleman writes "Terri, your language reveals a bit of bias." Dan--right back atcha. Wiggins was "provocative and inflammatory"; Verkerk and Buckner "put down local experts." You need to check your own language Dan.

Sorry, Terri, I don't get it.

While I did not see Ms. Verkerk "put down" anyone last night, I have seen her assume an air of superiority on many occasions when dealing with the public.

A quick spot review of the video-taped Town council meetings from the last four-years will quickly demonstrate her continuing disdain for many of the citizens appearing before her with testimony that conflicts with her agenda.

One of the most hypocritical criticisms she's leveled in the last couple years was when she "put down" a citizen for introducing FHA research downloaded from the NHSTA's web-site. She said she "didn't trust research from the Internet" (a common Luddite-lite criticism she likes to level) and, further, a shockingly strange condemnation for a professor that has received a gold star for her Celtic studies web-site (something she seems rightfully proud of....).

We are so concerned for our dead we forget about the living.

"Why are you afraid of death? Is it perhaps because you do not know how to live? If you knew how to live fully, would you be afraid of death? If you loved the trees, the sunset, the birds, the falling leaf; if you were aware of men and women in tears, of poor people, and really felt love in your heart, would you be afraid of death? Would you? Don't be persuaded by me. Let us think about it together. You do not live with joy, you are not happy, you are not vitally sensitive to things; and is that why you ask what is going to happen when you die? Life for you is sorrow, and so you are much more interested in death. You feel that perhaps there will be happiness after death. But that is a tremendous problem, and I do not know if you want to go into it. After all, fear is at the bottom of all this-fear of dying, fear of living, fear of suffering. If you cannot understand what it is that causes fear and be free of it, then it does not matter very much whether you are living or dead."

- Jiddu Krishnamurti

I was referring to Dorothy Verkerk's statement that, when it comes to historic preservation, "you can't just bring in some local guy to do it." It was clear in the context that this referred to Wyatt and was an attempt to dismiss his comments. I referred to it as a put-down. Perhaps there is a better term.

What I was trying to convey to Terri is that Paul Kapp is also a "local guy." He may be a local guy with a degree but that is not the only form of expertise, just a different form than Wyatt's.

Edith Wiggins was the one who suggested (in the previous meeting) taking money from the budget to repair gutters. If anyone wanted to discuss her idea further, why didn't they speak up then? No one did. Why not? I believe it's because they were too focused on:

(1) trying to frame this as a racist issue

(2) alluding to the possible incompetence of the task force, which is headed by Dorothy Verkerk, and has 6 members who are employees of UNC

(3) alluding to the stinginess of UNC and Di/Phi (never mind that UNC is repairing the stone walls, costing over $350,000 and they are not finished)

It WAS surprising when Edith suggested the extra $50,000. But it was not a surprise that the task force was going to request $20,000 for the gutters. Yet, four of the members were clearly poised to vote against the recommendations no matter what. Sally said that Edith's idea had merit, that they need to rethink this. Well, why didn't she say that in the previous meeting when it was initially brought up? The discussion could have taken place then. But the reality is that no one wanted to discuss it because that would have been departing from the script (see 1,2 and 3 above). No one mentioned fiscal irresponsibility or piling on money then, either.

It's my understanding that committees are formed so the council members don't have to research options or get particulars. Isn't there a full time staff for that?

Welding on any of the metalwork in question would erase any historical significance preservation would dictate. All the fencing pre-dates that type of fabrication. The fences and gates are all cast iron, except for the hoop fence and sections of fence on a plot that needs no restoration.
The gate on the Di/Society fence has had the middle busted out of it and it is currently wired on with baling wire and a hose clamp. If a photo could be found of the plot before this piece was knocked out the correct way to approach it would be to remove gate, use it as a pattern to cast another and sculpt in the missing part out of carved wood, like the orignal pattern was made. If no photo is available it may be able to matched in another cemetery, the date on the gate is 1795, but I think it was put up later, maybe mid 1870s. Besides that a small section is missing in the corner where a tree raised up the low stone wall the iron mounts to and loosened that section, natuarally. Most cemteries save sections but this may be gone. Besides that it has been painted regularly, missing a few finials but the overall plot and fence are still visible. I wouldn't suggest much should be done to this plot besides trying to restore the gate.
The Philantrohic plot's gate is in great shape and the bronze nameplate adds a nice touch. The fencing around the plot is mising a few elelments, but the original intention is still visible and it has also been painted over the years, again, I wouldn't do much to it.
The worse fences are close to the gazebo and path. One is a wire hoop job made by Valley Forge fencing circa 1890s, probably from a standard kit. Sears used to sell these types of fence kits. You could get your name cast on the gate. It is not a particularly unique example, I thought all the finials had been busted off but apparently it never had them, just a little mushroom shape on the 3/8s rod ends. The hoop fence is a popular old style. I would rather find another old one in better shape and replace this one with it, if you could find one suitable for sale. Any repairs made to this one would have to use old parts to match, using new parts would not be historic preservation and would look obvious.
The other bad one is in front of the hoop fence. It is all cast iron and missing a bunch. Flat one dimensional castings with a handrail type top, not particularly interesting and all the replacement parts would have to be cast from the exisiting sections. The most work is needed for the two least interesting examples in my opinion, but if you are going to spruce up that area they will have to be addressed.
Further behind these two is a good example of a modern, welded, inexpensive out of place gate with faux gilding, probably made circa 1970's or more recent. Maybe about the time of the gazebo. The gazebo also looks out of place. I would lose it for a Dean Smith, Bill Friday or Michael Jordan monument.
A foundry that cast iron need not have lots of expericence in historic restoration to be able to reproduce the iron parts needed. A good pattern shop would be the main thing to scrutinize.

There might also be some truth in the CH Herald Editorial claim(http://heraldsun.com/opinion/chhedits/57-553072.html) that personality clashes were at work. It was also late in a long session which most likely exacerbated the situation.

Edith's suggestion to add the $50,000 seemed to me to be reasonable problem solving. There was clearly a conflict among the members of the council on how to resolve the situation and Edith offered an option. Once Sally read the dialogue on high art vs low art, Edith said she felt even more strongly that neither should be privileged in this instance. She also put constraints on the use of the money (not typical of tax and spend liberals).

Despite Dan's claim that Edith was being inflammatory and provocative by proposing the additional expenditure, I see that she was offering a viable solution. So what if the solution wasn't normative behavior? On other issues (other actors), non-normative behavior has been praised.

Perhaps this could all be resolved by a good, old fashioned, gas powered, leaf-blowing contest.

Thanks, Donna. This clears up a lot and, to rewind this thread, shows that Cam's local expert knows what he's taking about and that casting two for one makes good sense.

I hope that the October presentation by Council Member Verkerk was about cast iron and not misleadingly about wrought iron since there is quite a difference.

But more interesting to me than resolving the cast vs wrought issue, which is certainly important to the cost of the project, is the version of the National Registery application on the Town site that you refer to. The application is not the complete version but selected portions.

Here's what else the National Register nomination says about the fences:

"The ornate cast-iron fences around the Dialectic and Philanthropic plots are equally fashionable examples of funerary art [equally fashionable as the elaborate markers in the two plots], and were probably ordered from Northeastern ironworks manufactories."

But you won't find that on the web because it's in a section of the 1994 National Register nomination that was left out of the committee's report to the Council. They left out Section 8, a 16-pg. "Statement of Significance." This section details the 21 "contributing structures" (not four as the committee's cover memo said) that justified the nomination. The fences were not the major reason why the property is on the National Register. There were lots of reasons, no single one of which was essential.

You may get a copy of the complete nomination by calling the State Historic Preservation Office.


Isn't there a difference between cast-iron and wrought iron? I gathered that the fences are in the National Register because they are wrought iron. I've tried to log on to their database to confirm that but I've had no success. I'll try later.


"UNC neglected these fences for years and then we are supposed to fix them using HALF the money they gave us for the entire cemetery."

Actually, according to the brochure published by the Chapel Hill Preservation Society:

"In 1922, the University and the Town of Chapel Hill entered into an agreement for the Town to maintain the Cemetery and administer the sale of lots, but it was not until 1988 that the University officially deeded the Cemetery to the Town."

So, the town and UNC are both at fault.

Cast Iron is brittle and non-malleable, wrought iron is steel and is malleable, usually forged. Cast iron is , well, cast. A wooden pattern is rammed in a sand bentonite mixture. The pattern is removed and molten iron poured in the cavity. The cast parts are removed from the sand mold and cleaned up, feeders or sprues as their called removed. Usually the cast elements are mechanically joined, bolted together, like the cast work in the cemetery. They can be welded but that is a contemporary process with cast iron. Cast iron does not weld as easily as steel.
Wrought is just that, hammered, scrolled, and forge welded by hammering the hot elements together with flux coated on it, usually borax. Elements are also strapped or banded together.
Often cast and wrought look alike. You can tell the difference by putting a grinder to the metal and looking at the sparks, cast iron gives off a more starry spark than steel.
Old wrought iron was smelted before the introduction of coke into the process, charcoal was used instead, took a lot of trees. I've never worked old wrought iron but I have heard it is more malleable and rust resistant than contemporary mild steel.
I noticed no outstanding examples of wrought iron in the cemetery, the only mainly steel fence being the hoop fence. All the rest of the fencing, gates and elements to them in the cemetery are cast iron.

I've heard the fences referred to as both cast-iron and wrought iron. In the first meeting about this issue, Dorothy Verkerk said they were wrought iron and were produced during an era when wrought iron was popular, hence their historical significance. Since wrought iron is more delicate than cast iron, it would seem to be important to verify what kind of iron they are. With wrought iron, you would certainly want someone who knows what they're doing.

It is common to refer to all ornamental ironwork as wrought iron. My experience is that most people don't differentiate between the two.
The difference is that wrought iron ornamental ironwork is made with a forge and cast iron ornamental ironwork is made with a foundry.
A traditional forge is coal fired with bellows or a blower to force air to heat the steel for manipulating.
A foundry is a furnace where ore and ingot are melted for pouring metal.
It would be easier if wrought iron was called what it really is, wrought steel work.
Wrought iron is more rare because it is not mass produced like cast iron, but the cast iron in the cemetery is rare because it was probably made in limited amounts 100 to 150 years ago.

The forms that I saw in the cemetary also looked to be cast rather than wrought. I concur with Pat's greater experience.

Here's a pretty good source on wrought restoration:
The indentification section is most helpful as some idea of what was popular in the period. But this is just an amusement, the shapes on and in the fences are the biggest give away.

But let's go to the experts:
Repair Di and Phi Cast Iron Fences. $52,000

from the October 11, 2004 memo to Council from the Task Force.

I can find nowhere where Council Member Verkerk says that the fences are wrought iron.

I'd make one correction to something Terri posted at 12:49 p.m. on 12/9, namely her claim that the Herald didn't report the condition Wiggins put on the extra $50K for restoring damage grave markers. In point of fact, we did.

For details, see Rob Shapard's story of Dec. 8, which is available at http://www.heraldsun.com/tools/printfriendly.cfm?URN=0465680399. The first bullet includes the following verbiage: "As proposed by Wiggins, the town won't spend this money until it has a plan for making sure the restored markers wouldn't get damaged again."

I was mistaken. It was actually at the public forum that Dorothy made those comments.


At this web site, they are also referred to as wrought iron.


My point was that since wrought iron is softer and more delicate than cast, this should be taken into consideration when this job is put out for bids. Therefore, someone needs to VERIFY that the fences and gates are cast rather than wrought. Pat Day said in his comment that "Often cast and wrought look alike".

My students did the website that you are refering to. There a a number of errors on that site that I've noticed over the years since they produced it and since I have become more familiar with the cemetery.

If you look at the patterns on the fences, you'll see that they are cast not wrought.

Council Member Verkerk contradicts herself in the two reports so it's difficult to know whether she knows if the fences are cast or wrought. It does seem that people wrongly use the terms interchangably which adds to the confusion.

John Sanders, Faison Sessoms and others all call them cast in the same public hearing that Verkerk calls the wrought (she is the only one to do so)

I suspect that the Historic Register has the right info. I'll see what I can come up with later this weekend.

I reviewed the town's website again and found the registration form for the National Registry. I thought it was just a form so I didn't check it. It turns out it is the original application for the Registry.

The fences are indeed cast iron.

Apparently, Edith Wiggins agrees with you, Ruby. That's why she suggested, during the public forum, taking money from the budget to fix gutters and headstones (hence the $20,000 requested by the task force). She went a step further in the last meeting by suggesting that $50,000 be set aside until a plan to protect the cemetery from vandalism was in place. I also believe that a suggestion by Rebecca Clark that UNC take some responsibility to prevent vandalism should also be explored. I think the extra money should be no problem. As Edith also pointed out, the renaming committee's recommendations will also require $$$ and all of those recommendations were accepted without discussion. Let's hope that Chapel Hill is not having another bad budget year when these projects need to be carried out. We certainly wouldn't want any more accusations of fiscal irresponsibility or "piling on $$$."

I also agree that nitpicking doesn't change anything. As Sally pointed out in the meeting, the cemetery qualified for the National Register under two of four specific criteria: "Property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history" (slavery and possibly the Civil War since CSA soldiers are buried there); and "Property emboidies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction" (monuments in both the Di/Phi section and the AA-section, the stone walls, the fences). Going through each contributing factor, point by point, would seem to be nitpicking.

I don't think Verkerk was trying to snow anyone about the fences. As Pat Day and Paul Jones pointed out, the terms tend to be used interchangeably. My interest in knowing if the fences were wrought or cast was that I was fascinated that these fences might have been created by hand. The fact that they weren't, however, doesn't detract from their artistic value since they are "extremely ornate."

Ruby, I disagree with your assertion that the task force "prioritized the Di Phi fences over historical slave grave markers." This implies that the task force intentionally shorted the AA-section because they are racist and I simply don't believe that is true. Dorothy Verkerk pointed out that Rebecca Clark, a task force member and an African-American, knows the cemetery better than anyone, and Mrs. Clark voted to allocate the $ for the fences. Her concerns about the AA-section were addressed by Edith Wiggins by her suggestion to allocate more money from the budget to fix those problems.

Paul, I don't doubt that Mr. Wyatt knows alot about welding, prepping iron for painting, and recasting. But I suspect he doesn't know anything about historical preservation. As Pat Day pointed out: "Making one from two is out of the question and shows a lack of respect for what is there." I assume Mr. Wyatt meant making one fence from the two existing fences. I don't think Mr. Wyatt was showing a lack of respect because he never claimed to be an expert in historical preservation. But he was asked to come before the council and give his opinion, so I guess it was assumed that he was an expert in historical restoration. Also, the company he mentioned (I think it was Southern Cast Inc. of Charlotte, http://southerncastinc.com/) doesn't mention that they are certified to do historical restoration. If they are, they should publish their credentials on their website. Mayor Foy asked him if the company was certified and Mr. Wyatt affirmed that they were certified to work on all kinds of metal. I would be wary of a company that doesn't do this kind of work as a specialty and only does it as a sideline. I think that doing the job right the first time is important.

I agree with Ruby that, from an important angle, whether the fences are wrought or cast makes no difference.

But it does make a difference when talking about the cost of preserving those fences, and what "preserving" them means. I defer to Pat on the technicalities, but I have studied the metal galleries of New Orleans's French Quarter for a work project.

If the components of the fence were cast, the only real option for restoring the fence to its exact original state, is to recast, which inevitably means replacing, thereby transforming the object (the fences) itself. You can't just start welding things together here, attaching ornaments there, if your intent is to somehow restore the cast fences to their original state which, as Pat rightly points out, is probably impossible anyway. You have few options, if you want the fences to look exactly as they once did, other than to recast the pieces.

And that means, at least to me, that they'll be _new_ -- no longer the same fences at all, but replacements. I'm with Pat -- do what you can to protect the fences as they are, maybe make a few discrete modifications here and there to extend their lives -- but let them be, for the most part. Recasting sections of the fence means taking away pieces of the original fence and replacing them with brand-new, exact replicas, and if preservation of the object itself (rather than restoration, which sometimes becomes "prettification") is the goal, recasting seems at odds with the goal.

I believe that Edith was responding to Mr. Chapman's patronizing tone, as if, as an African-American, she would not know what institutional racism is. She demonstrated that she does know what it is since she pointed to Bill Strom's example.

I am disappointed that she felt compelled to lower herself to the level of some other council members by using the well-worn race card. (Who knew SHE had one up her sleeve?) She lost her cool. Since I watched the proceedings on TV, I don't know what kinds of disapproving looks she had to endure from Bill Strom and Cam Hill.

I am not going to even start on the subject of whether Edith (or any individual) "knows what racism is." But her implications that some of her fellow Council members are racists if they don't agree with her is laughable. As far as who has worked to help black people in Chapel Hill, I think we can let the record speak for itself.

Yonni Chapman's understanding of the racial history of the University and his dedication to righting the many wrongs at that institution are unmatched in this community. I'm sorry that some people didn't feel comfortable listening to what he had to say. As a former UNC administrator, I would think Edith would have some interest in the subject.

I can't believe that you read my statement as calling anyone racist. Instead of trying to interpet it, please just read what I wrote, Donna. I spoke solely of my own preferences and didn't even mention the committee, and certainly didn't impugn its motivations.

I can't imagine what surprised you about Edith's actions. Perhaps you are new to Council-watching.

Unfortunately, there is no further level that Wiggins could have lowered herself to beyond the one she herself chose to occupy. Don't take it from me. Given the political predilections of the Herald, it is pretty significant that they called her statements "ugly and unjustified."

Her charge against Strom is delusional, as is your repeating it. Wiggins styles herself a leader among African-Americans. As such, you would think she would embrace someone like Chapman who has dedicated his studies to the racial history of Chapel HIll. Her attempt to dismiss his comments is as unbecoming as it is unjustified.

Let's keep the discussion going on this thread but, for those interested, I've posted my Herald column on this topic at:

Donna, in your mind, is there a difference between using the word "racist" and "playing the race card"?

Personally, I think it is good and appropriate to discuss race and racism. How can we ever discuss the reality of racism in this country if people always dismiss discussions of racism as "playing the race card."

I am not really pointing this out here by way of defending or attacking anyone on the CH Town Council, but rather to say anyone should feel free to discuss racism when s/he sees it.

If using the word "racist" is always an attack, then it can never lead to dialogue - because it always puts someone deeply on the defensive and into a mode of denial ('but some of my best friends are black!')

The point is not that UNC or the Town are evil because of their racist history, but rather that both the Town and UNC should confront their own racist history and use that process to become anti-racist.

I will say this about the graveyard:

1) It would definitely have been embarassingly racist to spend disproportionately on Di Phi fences and ignore the slave graves. Mercifully that did not happen.

2) Pat Day makes a convincing case that the $52,000 is improvident and even counterproductive.

3) The Council would be foolish and derelict if it simply accepted committee recommendations without question.

4) This whole issue is clearly more about personality conflicts on the CH Town Council than it is about the graveyard. The entire Town Council should be embarassed.

Should we honor the slave graves more than we honor the graves of the intellectual founders of the university and the community? The university wouldn't be here without either, so I reiterate my satisfaction that both will be honored thanks to the 'tax and spend liberals on the Council.'

Mark is right that we need to talk about race. But we need to talk about it with an understanding that the way white people perceive racism is always going to be different than the way members of minority races perceive it. An intellectual understanding of the term is quite different from the lived experience of it.

I am now out of town, but I was able to see the last council meeting. I did not hear Edith call anyone a racist, rather I heard her say someone was demonstrating what institutional racism was about. There is a big difference.

But let be clear about what Monday night was really about --- the 2005 election. What's not clear yet is who will run for reelection but it sure looks like there is a councilman who acts like he wants to be the mayor and a columnist who appears to be in direct support.


Let's not be too coy here. I hope I am not being egotistical in assuming the columnist you refer to is me. If it is and since several people have made comments similar to yours, let me be very direct and clear: I have no knowledge of anyone running for mayor in 2005. As far as I know, the field is wide open. Nor am I supporting anyone for Mayor. Have you heard that Kevin is running again? I have not. If you read my column from this morning carefully, I hope you will conclude that I am encouraging Kevin to do a better job.

That said, I think you do a real disservice to our elected officials. I can't think of a case where I would conclude that a council-member has taken a stance in a council meeting primarily with electoral advantage in mind, certainly not 11 months before the election. I'm sure that as the election gets close, incumbents seeking reelection frame things to help their campaigns but I don't think anyone would take a position solely on that basis. They'd never get away with it.

Since you apparently disagree, I wonder just what you mean. Are you suggesting that the four supporters of the cemetery decision who might stand for reelection took that stance to further their candidacies? Are you suggesting that Edith got "ugly" (as the Herald put it) for campaign advantage? Or that Dorothy displayed an elite sensibility (as I put it) for that reason? Are you suggesting that Mark K wanted Di/Phi to do some fundraising because it would help his campaign should he choose to run again?

Or do you believe that Strom's suggestion that the Council be “more deliberative” and wait to see what the impact of the chiller plant will be is the first salvo in a mayoral campaign that only people who never talk to Strom seem to know about?

I don't know what you're talking about, Fred (perhaps because I did not observe the meeting).

The Herald says: Councilwoman Edith Wiggins... charged in the meeting that a statement by Councilman Bill Strom was an example of "institutional racism." To me, that's quite a lot like calling him a racist - apparently for supporting funding for restoration of African American graves.

I really think the Mayor was quite negligent to let this comment stand unchallenged; but to close the discussion just because it was getting unruly is patently undemocratic - and it serves to reward the ones hurling epithets. Great job.

To me, if it's about 2005, then it's about this: Chapel Hill needs a new mayor. I have no idea what Bill's plans are. But I think anyone with more interest in listening to the people of Chapel Hill than to UNC administrators would be a step in the right direction.

Threre are plenty of people jockeying for position. I don't know why you seem to think there's something wrong with that. Don't you think Kevin is doing the same? Besides, Dan (or any editorialist) agreeing with Bill's (or any Council person's) position on something is far from an endorsement. It's hardly even notable. Again, why does that sound like an accusation coming from you? It's an opinion column!

p.s. I also want to respond to any rumors that I am supporting John Edwards for Mayor of Carrboro. I have not heard from Edwards and I do not know what his plans are.

p.p.s. Ruby's comment reminded me that I ought to point out to careful readers of my column that I did not endorse any position made by any Council-member. Nor did I say that any position should not have been considered. My point was that all of their positions should have received proper consideration by the Council and that the Mayor should not have stopped discussion before that happened. As Cam Hill pointed out in his memo to Foy, the Mayor was in violation of Council procedure in so doing.


For you to criticize Edith for implying her fellow council members are racist is itself laughable, since that's most of what S,K, H and G did during the process.

"I can't believe that you read my statement as calling anyone racist." Wow. I only have to read your other posts on this blog (Sunrise..Sunset, although you are not as subtle) to know what you meant. "I thought a number of council members were quite right in pointing out that it prioritized the Di Phi fences over historical slave grave markers." What is the "it", the task force or the council? Either way, you are implying racism. Yes, Edith implied that Strom is a racist. She bought into this tired name-the-racist game. That is what surprised me, not that she got her feathers ruffled.

"Councilwoman Edith Wiggins… charged in the meeting that a statement by Councilman Bill Strom was an example of “institutional racism.” To me, that's quite a lot like calling him a racist - apparently for supporting funding for restoration of African American graves." No, it was not for supporting the restoration, but rather not supporting the restoration (institutional racism) by rejecting additional funding requested by the task force ($20,000) and referring to Edith's suggestion to set aside money ($50,000) as piling on $$$. I can see her point, although she was too aggressive in doing do. It was clear that S, K, H and G were PREPARED to reject ANY idea (let me say any DOABLE idea) that would include restoration of the Di/Phi fences.


"Unfortunately, there is no further level that Wiggins could have lowered herself to beyond the one she herself chose to occupy." Ditto for S, K, H and G, although they were more subtle about it. But I think the prize for sinking the lowest should go to Cam Hill for using a citizen to further his vindictive agenda.

"Her charge against Strom is delusional."
Is that a welcome to the club, Dan? You're fairly delusional yourself. I recall a column you wrote where you made an exceptionally weak argument against the panhandling ordinance. I remember it because it was one of the first times I wrote a letter to a newspaper. I would post the link, but you have to be a 7 day subscriber to access the archives ("Gagging panhandlers no answer"). You were very clear about what you felt was racial bias (unsubstantiated of course) on the council.

"It was troubling to see the repeated suggestion that gagging panhandlers was some kind of gender issue, that panhandlers might "make young women feel guilty and intimidated." There was a time when feminism was about empowering women (Stanlee Phelps' and Nancy Austin's classic "The Assertive Woman" comes to mind). There was also a time when the abuses of Jim Crow segregation were rationalized as protecting white women."

Never mind that you blame the VICTIMS for the harassment by aggressive panhandlers (read a book, geez), but the Jim Crow reference is completely off-the-wall.

Your suggestion that Yonni Chapman is blacker than Edith, well, I don't know how to respond to that.


Playing the race card, to me, means calling someone or something racist, either overtly or subtley, without proof.
Overplay of this card is exactly why people dismiss discussions about race.

I recall on a recent thread, Terri Tyson being taken to task (that's a collossal understatement) for using a reference to the holocaust in a letter to the editor. She was basically accused of cheapening the holocaust by referring to it to make a point. Well, I think anyone who cries racism without proof cheapens the discussion, ESPECIALLY when white people do it.

I think the public schools don't help matters either. When my son was in the 2nd grade, he got off the bus one day during black history month and declared that he hated white people. My 2nd grader!! How was the teacher presenting this subject that would make a child say such a thing? I didn't follow up on it then, and to this day I wish I had.

Local politics can get pretty darn parochial, but I'm having trouble picturing anyone - I mean anyone - deciding how to vote in 2005 based on the issue of cemetery maintenance.

It's worth paying a few quarters for today's (Sunday) Herald to read Cemetery Task Force member Steve Moore's guest column. A few selected excerpts:

"From the first, it was apparent that the university had a super majority on the Task Force (this included the six university-appointed members and the chair) and whatever they wanted they would get." [note from DC: he should have called it a simple majority, 7 out of 12, not a super-majority but a majority nonetheless]

"the master plan indicated that four fenced plots needed attention -- the Di-Phi plots being one of these. The university-dominated task force decided that only one would be targeted, the one privately owned and privately maintained."

"the whole matter of grave-marker restoration was totally ignored in the funding recommendation until the council directed this need after the public hearing." [note from DC: observers might recall which members of "the Council" this provided this direction; they included Jim Ward who seemed to come close to breaking with his employer on this)]

It appears that Wiggins may have been right that there was institutional racism operating: the institution was UNC. Those who think that Wiggins outburst on institutional racism was warranted might consider the possibility that would have been more accurate to have directed it at Verkerk (but, as I made clear earlier, I don't think she should have directed such incivility at anyone).



Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.