Plaque honoring African American brick artisan to be dedicated at Asheville’s Municipal Building

James Vester Miller

James Vester Miller



Born a slave, an Asheville man went on to leave his fingerprints on some of Asheville’s most prominent buildings. At 4 p.m. July 27, a plaque commemorating the contributions of famed African American brick artisan James Vester Miller will be dedicated in front of Asheville’s Municipal Building, 100 Court Plaza.

Mayor Esther Manheimer will unveil the plaque and make remarks in honor of this extraordinary man.

Born in 1858 in Rutherford County, James Vester Miller was the son of a slave, Louisa, and her white owner. After the Civil War, his mother moved her three children to Asheville. Here Miller’s interest in building developed and he soon became one of the city’s most noted masons. He formed a company, Miller & Sons Construction, which specialized in churches and commercial buildings during the late 1880s and early 1900s.

You have seen his works around Asheville: St. Matthias Episcopal Church, St. James A.M.E. Church and Hopkins Chapel. And the City’s Municipal Building stands as a testimony to his accomplishments.

His granddaughter, Andrea Clarke, petitioned City Council, requesting the plaque as an acknowledgement of her forbearer’s craftsmanship on the City’s Municipal Building, erected in 1925-26. Asheville’s African American Heritage Commission also received information about this request.

“It is our desire to commemorate and celebrate this exceptional work and lifetime so that the citizens of Asheville may collectively celebrate the excellence which James Vester Miller exemplified through his life and his work,” Ms. Clarke wrote to City Council.

A plaque honoring Mr. Miller’s contribution also appears as Station 28 on Asheville’s Urban Trail. It is located on Market Street between Eagle Street and Pack Square.


At a glance

What: Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer will dedicate a plaque to honor African American brick artisan James Vester Miller.

When/where: 4 p.m. July 27 in front of Asheville’s Municipal Building, 100 Court Plaza.