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Saint-Gaudens monument defaced with antisemitic slogan, imagery

  • A portion of The Temple monument at Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park is covered by a tarp, awaiting continued restoration work to remove antisemitic graffiti in Cornish, N.H., on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. The graffiti was initially reported by park staff Oct. 1, and restoration work is expected to be completed by Friday. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/13/2021 4:57:23 PM
Modified: 10/13/2021 7:18:12 PM

CORNISH — National Park Service law enforcement rangers and New Hampshire State Police are seeking tips about antisemitic vandalism of The Temple monument at Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, according to park officials.

The damage, first reported by park staff the morning of Oct. 1, includes the defacement of the park’s temple funerary monument where the family of Augustus Saint-Gaudens is interred, according to a post on the park’s Facebook page.

“We were heartbroken to discover this act of vandalism to the temple monument and grave of the Saint-Gaudens family and we condemn both the act and the language used,” Superintendent Rick Kendall said in the post. “We are already working with National Park Service conservators to carefully restore the monument.”

The monument, which is to the far west of the upper park and set apart from the other buildings on the site, was tagged with paint, marker, and antisemitic language and symbols.

A photo attached to the Facebook post shows pink letter C’s painted on each of the front two columns of the Greco-Roman-style temple, as well as horizontal lines on steps leading up to a central sculpture that is inscribed with a list of those interred there and was also colored pink.

The backside of the monument, which park officials opted not to share photos of publicly, was defaced using black permanent marker, said Rainey McKenna, a park spokeswoman. The imagery on the back included swastikas and the words “Heil Hitler,” she said.

The Saint-Gaudens family was not Jewish and it’s not known why the site would be targeted in this way, McKenna said. She also was uncertain of the significance of the letter C.

“It does appear to be a random act of vandalism,” McKenna said.

The Saint-Gaudens family began summering in Cornish in 1885, according to the Park Service. Their presence there led to the formation of the Cornish Art Colony. The Temple was originally constructed in plaster in 1905 for a pageant celebrating Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ 20th anniversary in Cornish. Following his death in 1907, his wife, Augusta, commissioned a marble replica of the temple.

“The monument is very significant to the site,” McKenna said.

John Dryfhout, who was a curator and superintendent at Saint-Gaudens from 1966 to 2004, said the Vermont marble is “very porous” and “very difficult to clean off.”

Dryfhout said the classical Greek mausoleum seems like an “odd” target for the vandalism.

“It’s a very sad thing,” he said of the vandalism. The “level of culture in the U.S. has really deteriorated.”

On Wednesday, the monument was covered with a tarp awaiting further restoration. National Park Service museum conservators arrived on site Oct. 4 to begin treatment of the site, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. They are expected to complete the restoration by Friday.

McKenna said it was not yet known how much the restoration would cost, but that the conservators so far have been able to remove most of the pink paint and are expected to return Thursday with additional equipment to address the black marker.

“Vandalism of this type is very difficult to remove and can be very costly,” McKenna said. It’s “not always possible to restore it to its original state.”

This is not the first time in recent months the park on a hill above Route 12A has been the target of vandalism. Earlier this year, someone pushed capstones off a historic bridge at Blow-Me-Down Mill, McKenna said. It is, however, the first time the site has been the target of this type of graffiti, she said.

The Temple also isn’t the only work in the Twin States to be defaced in recent weeks. A statue of Abraham Lincoln outside the Bennington (Vt.) Museum was vandalized over the Indigenous Peoples Day holiday weekend, according to WNYT. The graffiti on that statue includes the number 38, which police say stands for the Dakota 38, a group of 38 Native American men that were hanged on Lincoln’s order.

In his time, Dryfhout said, the Saint-Gaudens site would see some planters knocked over around Halloween, which he said employees would promptly put right.

He described vandalism as a “disease” and said, “once it’s started it will continue until someone puts a stop to it.”

Investigators are looking for additional information about activity leading to the vandalism, which is believed to have occurred between the afternoon of Sept. 30 and the morning of Oct. 1. Anyone with information about the incident can call 888-653-0009 or send anonymous tips via email to nps_isb@nps.gov, or text message or voicemail to 888-653-0009.

“We would appreciate the public’s help,” McKenna said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.




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