Washington Monument could take weeks to restore after vandalism

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The National Park Service says it hopes it can remove the red paint splashed on the Washington Monument as an act of vandalism, but fears the incident could leave a mark on the structure’s surface.

The U.S. park police said on Tuesday they had arrested a man accused of using red paint to scribble an immoral message on the national monument and sloshing a large sum of money next to the words. Now, the Parks Service says teams will act quickly to prevent the red paint from entering the permeable surface of the monument.

National Mall spokesman Mike Litterst told Washington, DC, TBEN affiliate WJLA that the Park Service’s in-house conservation team will be the first at the monument Wednesday morning to begin removing the paint.

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“One of the concerns, of course, is that marble is a very porous material, so we have to act quickly before it absorbs a lot of the paint,” he said.

US Park Police guard the Washington Monument after a vandal scribbled graffiti and threw red paint on the national monument in Washington, DC. A police spokesman said a man was in custody.
Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Litterst told the station he is hopeful the cleanup will proceed in the same way as a 2013 incident that saw the Lincoln Memorial shut down after a person threw green paint on President Abraham Lincoln’s 19-foot statute. Both monuments are made of marble, Litterst said, and the Lincoln Memorial was restored without any trace of vandalism.

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Litterst told WJLA it will likely take “a number of treatments” over the next two to three weeks to completely remove the paint from the Washington Monument, adding that conservation teams are familiar with the work ahead.

The Lincoln Memorial was cleaned up again in 2017 after a vandal targeted it with red spray paint. Previously, restoration teams have cleaned up damage to other national monuments in the capital that had been daubed with paint, using black markers often used to convey political messages.

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“We have one of the largest outdoor sculpture collections in the country here on the National Mall,” Litterst told WJLA. “So this is something that unfortunately they’ve done before and they have the skills for it.”

In a statement to news week, Park Police said “the area at the base of the monument will be temporarily closed.”

“National Park Service restorers will work on the restoration process,” the police said in the statement. “The investigation is still ongoing and there is no specific information at this time.”

Located on the National Mall, the Washington Monument is a 555-foot marble obelisk completed in 1884 to honor the nation’s first president, George Washington, according to the park service.

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