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National monuments nearly clean of green paint vandalism

August 03, 2013|By Marina Villeneuve | This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
  • William Adair of Gold Leaf Studios removes green paint from the organ in the Washington National Cathedral's historic Bethlehem Chapel in Washington. The paint was splashed onto the organ and on the floor inside the chapel in the basement level and inside Children's Chapel in the nave of the cathedral.
William Adair of Gold Leaf Studios removes green paint from the organ in… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)

WASHINGTON — Cleaning crews have nearly finished removing green paint splashed on several national landmarks, and a 58-year-old woman arrested in one incident is also suspected in the others, police said.

The landmarks included the Lincoln Memorial, the architectural wooden framework behind the altar of the Washington National Cathedral Children’s Chapel and an organ in the cathedral’s historic Bethlehem Chapel.

Green paint was also found Monday on a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. in northwest Washington’s Thomas Circle and on a statue of Joseph Henry, first secretary of the Smithsonian, on the National Mall.

On Monday, D.C Metropolitan Police charged Jiamei Tian, a Chinese national traveling in Washington on an expired visa, with defacing the two chapels using a soda can filled with green paint. The charge of destroying public property carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Court documents said damage  totaled about $18,000.

Detectives said they found green paint on Tian’s fingers, shoes and clothing.  She is suspected in the other incidents, police spokesman Paul Metcalf said.

Paint-removal efforts at the Smithsonian statue and the Children’s Chapel moved swiftly. The chapel reopened  Friday, with the help of Gold Leaf Studios, an architectural gilding and conservation firm. Workers arrived at the cathedral within two hours and removed 90% of the still-wet paint within 24 hours, the Washington National Cathedral staff said.

The Washington National Cathedral and National Park Service have had a more difficult time removing the green paint from the Lincoln Memorial and Bethlehem Chapel.

The cathedral estimates the total cleanup will cost $15,000 — on top of $20 million in restoration after a 2010 earthquake and other historic-preservation costs facing the 105-year-old landmark.

There was no estimated cleanup cost for the Lincoln Memorial, though the National Mall’s preservation crew has put in 300 work hours trying to remove paint from the statue’s porous white marble, said Carol Johnson, public affairs officer for the National Mall and Memorial Parks Division of the National Park Service.

“Most of the cost is labor,” Johnson said. She estimated that the work would be finished Monday.

A social media campaign with the hashtag #RespectLincoln has raised $2,000 since last Friday to help with restoration costs. It was created by the National Park Foundation and D.C. TV station WUSA9. Donors can text the word PARKS to 90999 or visit the foundation’s website to donate $5 or more.

Some say the occasion is an opportunity to pay more attention to the preservation of national landmarks.

“It is heartbreaking when one of our national parks, like the Lincoln Memorial, is vandalized.… Together, we can restore, protect and safeguard these treasured places so future generations get the chance to experience them too " Neil Mulholland, president and chief executive of the National Park Foundation, said in a statement.

The D.C. delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, sent a letter to the National Park Service requesting information about staffing levels and the potential impact of sequestration, accross-the-board federal spending cuts taking effect this year.

“There is now considerable concern about whether other monuments on the National Mall are in jeopardy of being vandalized, and whether there is adequate protection to ensure that such acts do not occur in the future,” she wrote.

[For the record, 1:27 p.m. PDT, Aug. 3: An earlier version of the post misspelled the last name of Eleanor Holmes Norton as Nortonm.]


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