Vandals at one of Baltimore's largest cemeteries indiscriminately toppled about 300 headstones and monuments -- some dating from the mid-1800s -- late Friday or early yesterday, police reported.
The grave markers were overturned in eight of the oldest sections of the 100-acre Baltimore Cemetery, known for its distinctive castle-like gates at the east end of North Avenue at Rose Street.
"When you don't have respect for the cemetery and the dead, what do you have respect for?" said Joseph T. Poore, 48, foreman at the cemetery and one of the workers who discovered the damage early yesterday. "What gets me is, why would you want to do damage to the cemetery?"
Many of the headstones marked the graves of German immigrants to Baltimore, with names such as Siemon, Geumann and Schiminger, and some were inscribed in German. But the vandalism was not limited to just one ethnic group buried in the 140-year-old cemetery.
Headstones were knocked over in the middle sections of the cemeterywith no apparent reason -- one here, a cluster there. As one looked down the rows of nearly 115,000 graves, however, a sort of pattern emerged -- as if a high wind had zig-zagged through, knocking over some monuments in its path, while leaving others untouched.
Some of the stones were damaged when they fell, but most remained intact after being pushed off their bases. There was no estimate of damage yesterday, but Mr. Poore said he expected it would cost "thousands of dollars" to right the stones and make repairs.
"What's really a shame is that they're destroying things that go back to the 1800s for no good reason," Mr. Poore said. "These are people's statues here who have passed on and don't have anyone. It's a shame."
While police did not have any suspects yesterday, Mr. Poore said it was clear to him "these ain't no kids coming in, knocking down some of these big stones."
He said this was not the first time vandals had struck the cemetery, which is protected by a fortress-like stone wall on the west side and a high fence topped with three strands of barbed wire on the other sides.
"Nah, this isn't the first time," he said. "They came in one time, and they just took it out on the angels [on top of some monuments]. And you had these kids come in here -- especially in the beginning of the summer -- and roll those footstones over looking for garter snakes."
Yesterday's damage was the most widespread, he said, even though "they missed some of the more ornate angels and monuments."
"This time of year, people are coming out at Christmas time and gotta see this. It's a shame," Mr. Poore said. "It's gonna take some work.
"Let's just hope and pray they don't come back tonight."