San Antonio apartment owner wants to remove Robert E. Lee name from building

A neon sign that has shined over San Antonio’s downtown since the Great Depression could soon be coming down – because it bears the name of Robert E. Lee.

The owner of the 10-story Robert E. Lee apartment building is asking the city for permission to remove the Confederate general’s middle and last names, shortening the sign to “Hotel Robt” from “Hotel Robt. E. Lee.”

The request comes amid a nationwide debate over how to address the hundreds of Confederate statues, monuments and symbols that exist throughout the country – with many cities having opted to remove them in the wake of the violence during a protest in Charlottesville, Va., in August.

Robert E. Lee memorials have been at the center of that debate in San Antonio.

A statue of Robert E. Lee was removed from Travis Park earlier this month in the middle of the night after the city council voted, 10-1, to put the statue into storage, Fox29 reported. Trustees of the North East Independent School District voted, 7-0, to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School.

The decisions were met with resistance from some residents who said they felt like Texas’ history was being erased. The San Antonio Conservation Society is one of the groups opposing the sign change at the apartment building.

City workers drape a tarp over the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation park in Charlottesville, Va., Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. The move intended to symbolize the city's mourning for Heather Heyer, killed while protesting a white nationalist rally earlier this month.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A controversial statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation park in Charlottesville, Va.  (AP)

“We felt very strongly that the sign should remain the way it is,” the society’s president, Susan Beavin, told mySA. “We just feel that it is a historic building, it’s a historic sign, [and] it’s rather strange to make the changes that they’re making.”

District 1 City Councilman Roberto Trevino co-initiated the proposal to remove the Travis Park statue.

“This is something that has been discussed by the applicant and staff for some time,” Trevino said. “This city has shown itself to be resilient and thoughtful about residual elements of the Civil War.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.