Monument to Revolutionary War hero at Patterson Park defaced with graffiti

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Photo courtesy of Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks

The city is working with a conservator to remove a graffiti tag recently discovered scrawled on a monument to Revolutionary War general Casimir Pulaski at Patterson Park.

The Friends of Patterson Park, a nonprofit that preserves and promotes its namesake 137-acre grounds, said yesterday that it had been made aware of the graffiti on the Pulaski Monument. It features the spray-painted words “white lies” and a sideways smiley face with its tongue sticking out.

The nonprofit said it’s working with Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, which in turn is working with a conservator, to repair the 68-year-old memorial designed by Baltimore sculptor Hans Schuler.

Jennifer Robinson, the group’s executive director, said city agencies are “doing a good job of making sure that it’s addressed in the correct way and being taken of.”

“Public spaces are always gonna be vulnerable in some way, and so knowing that we have systems in place that can take of it is heartening,” she said.

Pulaski, born in 1745, famously came over from Poland in 1777 to fight for the Continental Army, and formed his own independent infantry and cavalry in Baltimore known as the Pulaski Cavalry Legion. Pulaski fought for George Washington’s army for several years until he was mortally wounded in the Battle of Savannah in October 1779.

Beyond having a major highway named in his honor, Pulaski is considered a hero among the Polish-American community. He’s also the subject of a recent episode of the Smithsonian Channel show “America’s Hidden Stories” exploring whether he may have been intersex.

Robinson said she’s not aware of any specific racial controversies surrounding Pulaski’s legacy, noting that “it seems like a different case” than, say, Baltimore’s former controversial Confederate monuments that ex-mayor Catherine Pugh ordered torn down overnight in August 2017.

“The message is unclear, and it’s hard to know the intentions of the person writing it and why they chose that particular location,” Robinson said. “Obviously as caretakers of public space, we don’t feel that defacing monuments is the way to start a conversation.”

She noted the Polish Heritage Association of Maryland has helped maintain the monument for years.

The group’s president, Jean Pula, told Baltimore Fishbowl that work has included telling the city when lights were out or if shrubbery need to be removed or cut back and, for some time, planting flowers at the site.

Pula said she spoke with CHAP Executive Director Eric Holcomb today about working together this year on restoration efforts–aside from removing the new graffiti–like cleaning the stone, fixing any faded lettering and replacing trees planted nearby. She noted she “had been thinking about it,” but the recent vandalism “certainly renews everyone’s feelings” that it could be time to give them monument a facelift and raise funds to do so.

Photos shared by local TV reporters indicate the graffiti has since been covered with orange plastic netting.

The Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks said Thursday that staff filed a police report and “are working closely together with [CHAP] to have the graffiti removed.” The agency asked that the public “stay clear of the area to allow crews to work.”

CHAP helped coordinate a $51,000 conservation project for the Pulaski Monument in 2001 with Rec and Parks, the Friends of Patterson Park and Polish community members in honor of its 50th anniversary.

Pula agreed with Robinson’s assessment that the person who recently tagged it “may have been confused” about the identity of the figure atop the monument, particularly given his legacy.

Pulaski “certainly did not own slaves,” she noted, and “was very much a believer in freedom of humanity… He thought people should be free.”

This story has been updated.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
Ethan McLeod
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