Workmen added a porch to the front of the reconstructed Vance house after completing the rest of the house. While the Vances likely did not have a porch on their original cabin, later residents added one to the structure. Site planners liked the aesthetic appeal and also appreciated the porch’s ability to give visitors shelter and shade.
The structure shown in the image above is not the Birthplace of Zebulon Vance. Rather, it is a collage of old and new: original fireplace bricks, the relocated Hemphill house staircase, a new cement foundation, and marks on the log siding from old tools and old hand-hewing techniques. The structure that site planners found in the 1950s was not the Birthplace of Zebulon Vance either. That house had been remodeled, torn down, and rebuilt over centuries by many families. Even the first structure on this site, constructed by enslaved individuals, was not the original Birthplace—it was the home of David Sr., Priscilla Vance, and their children.
The site that you can visit today is not the same site that you see in the image above: the shingles have been replaced, the glass windowpanes have been tinted, and the wood has been worn down over the years. On the evening of December 8, 2017, when the site was set to debut the first program focused on an African American woman, the side of the Vance house was spray painted with a message that read “Black Lives Matter.” With help from the State Historic Preservation Office, staff worked to clean the historic structure. The paint soaked wood siding could not be fully removed. The staff have utilized the spray painted house to encourage dialogue around the connections between the past and present, erecting an exhibit in front of the paint with the names of each of the recorded enslaved people.
Over time, the spray paint will fade, and the Vance house will continue to need regular maintenance as all log cabins do, and therefore will continue to change. Some visitors may be disappointed to learn that this structure is not the "original" Birthplace, or even the "original" reconstructed cabin. We, however, find the full story much richer and far more interesting.
What stories does your dwelling place tell?