This morning, we learned that the Francis Scott Key Monument at Eutaw Place was splashed with red paint over night and the stone pedestal at the center of the monument was spray painted with the words “Racist Anthem.” The monument by French sculptor Marius Jean Antonin Mercié shows Key standing in a marble rowboat next to a seated bronze sailor. The statue was dedicated on May 15, 1911, and restored in 1999 after a major fundraising campaign by local residents. You can see more photographs of the Key Monument and the graffiti in our Flickr album.
The spray painted graffiti on the east side of the stone curb surrounding the monument fountain included “Blood on his hands,” “Racist Anthem,” “Fuck FSK,” and “Hater U Just Mad.” On the pavement in front of the monument was written “Slave Owner” and one of the lesser-known stanzas that make up Key’s Star-Spangled Banner:
“No refuge could save, Hireling or slave,
From terror of flight, Or gloom of grave”
The Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks was notified about the condition of the monument early this morning and reached out to the Baltimore City Police Department, the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, and other city agencies to file a police report and consider next steps. We have also reached out to the Bolton Hill Architectural Review Committee to alert neighbors to the situation and to help monitor the monument. CHAP and city agencies are working to have the paint and graffiti removed by an art conservator as quickly as possible.
Earlier this summer, we completed the first draft of our context study on Baltimore’s Civil Rights heritage. We’ve been working on this project for two years, together with the Maryland Historical Trust and Baltimore National Heritage Area, with funding from the National Park Service, Preservation Maryland, and PNC Foundation. The completed draft covers nearly 150 years of history, politics, activism, and change from 1831 to 1976. This fall, we’re asking you to take a look and share your reactions, comments, and suggestions!
At the beginning of the project in 2015, we created a website where we could share all of our research materials and writing online. By making our research accessible online to students, educators, historians, and activists, we hope to encourage more people to learn about the history of the Civil Rights movement in Baltimore and to preserve the historic places that help tell stories from the movement. We’re using a Creative Commons license for all of our writing and using GitHub (a popular platform for open source projects) to publish the website. Our goal is to make it easier to people to reuse or help improve the resources we’re making for this project.
Where can you find the context study? You can read all six sections of the context study on our website beginning with the overview or you can download a PDF that compiles all six sections into a single document. But you can also browse a map and database of over 350 related sites, buildings, and landscapes we’ve identified during our research. We put together a new tour on Explore Baltimore Heritage, that you can use to find and see a few of these places for yourself. Finally, our timeline of events is an easy way to learn how local events responded to events affecting the Civil Rights movement in Maryland and the United States.
We welcome your comments on anything big or small. Did our study miss an important place or person? Do you think we have part of the history wrong? Did we cover the most relevant themes for each period? You can send us your comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using our project feedback form. We also have a separate form if you want to suggest adding a place to our inventory.
Do you have a good idea for how you can help preserve Baltimore’s historic places? Would a $250 or $500 help you to make it happen? Consider applying for our 2017 Preservation Pitch Party or read on to learn more about how we are giving away four micro-grants this fall.
For the next two weeks, we’ll be taking your suggestions for small preservation projects. We’ll pick the top six ideas on Friday, September 22 and help the people who proposed these promising ideas prepare to make their case. On the evening of October 3, they’ll have just three minutes to make a pitch for why they deserve one of four “micro-grants”. Then, the crowd at Whitehall Mill will have the chance to vote and award two $500 grants and two $250 grants.
We are happy to consider any application related Baltimore’s history and historic places. Eligible projects could include doing repairs at a historic neighborhood park; planning a tour of a historic neighborhood; hosting an event to celebrate Baltimore’s history; or engaging neighborhood youth around preservation and architecture.
We know the amount of the award ($250 or $500) may not be enough to complete your entire project. But we believe a little help can sometimes make a big difference. You do not need to be a designated nonprofit or other incorporated organization to apply. Individuals and informal groups are welcome.
If you have any questions, pease email me at email@example.com or call our office at 410-332-9992. Whether you submit a proposal or not, you are welcome to join us at Whitehall Mill on October 3; sign up online today!
Baltimore Heritage has advocated for preserving buildings in the Market Center historic district on the west side of downtown for almost twenty years. Six years ago, our campaign for the preservation of Read’s Drug Store (and the threatened five-and-dime stores along the 200 block of W. Lexington Street) helped to bring the history of the proposed Five and Dime historic district to broader public attention and won the stores a temporary reprieve from demolition.
Last week, we testified to support a proposal by the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation to designate a new local historic district granting the stores, banks, and offices along Lexington, Howard, Liberty and Fayette Streets the lasting protection they deserve. Fortunately, the commission voted to approve the designation and the proposal will continue for a hearing before the City Council before it can be officially designated later this year. The Five and Dime district is one of two new historic districts coming to the area after CHAP approved the new Howard Street district at their hearing on July 11.
We believe that these local district designations will offer a clear, consistent, and predictable design review framework for existing property owners and potential investors. In a welcome change from their position six years ago, the Baltimore Development Corporation is actively supporting the preservation of the city-owned buildings in the Market Center area through stabilization work and new preservation requirements for developers responding to requests for proposals. The districts will also be a tool to protect privately owned buildings from demolition or inappropriate changes.
The buildings within the new districts are important not just for their architecture but also for the stories of the everyday people who worked and shopped in these buildings: from humble retail clerks to bank executives to student protestors. Preserving the stories of these people is important to the civic identity and memory of Baltimore’s residents, the success of heritage tourism in Baltimore City, and the continued development of the Market Center area.
Last night at Mayor Pugh’s direction, Baltimore’s three public Confederate monuments and the monument of Justice Roger B. Taney were taken down and placed in storage. The city’s action comes after a series of meetings, public discussions, and protests that began in June 2015 when people in Baltimore and across the country called for the removal of Confederate monuments and former Mayor Rawlings-Blake created a special commission to study Baltimore’s four statues. More recently, this past Sunday, over a thousand people gathered at the Lee-Jackson Monument for a rally to show solidarity with Charlottesville and to call on the city to take down the monuments. And on Monday, the Baltimore City Council voted unanimously to support a resolution by Councilman Brandon Scott to remove all four of the statues. The Mayor’s decision to remove the monuments last night also came after Baltimore BLOC announced a plan to take down the Lee-Jackson Statue through direct action, following the example set by protesters in Durham, North Carolina.
In 2015, Baltimore Heritage supported the public review of these monuments by presenting testimony and publishing a report on the history of Confederate memory. In our research, we reported how “Lost Cause” monuments to the Confederacy were built as a part of a national movement to support white supremacy beginning after the Civil War. The report also chronicled how the monuments sparked opposition and controversy at the time they were erected. For example, in 1888, a Confederate veteran opposing the erection of a Confederate monument on Eutaw Place wrote: “I am unwilling to see erected in the public streets of this city a monument to a dead idea.” In 1948, the Afro-American newspaper criticized the mayor and governor for participating in the dedication of the Lee-Jackson Monument calling the men it depicted rebels “who walked roughshod over humble people in an attempt to build a State on the foundation of slave labor.”
Today, the four monuments are gone from their pedestals. We join many other Baltimoreans in looking forward to and participating in what comes next. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has called on communities to act in a transparent, deliberative, and inclusive way in dealing with their Confederate monuments. We agree. Just as the removal of the monuments came after years of public participation, we hope the city will invite an open discussion on what happens next at these sites.