City is cleaning defaced statues Gentle touch, paint remover required

December 11, 1990|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Evening Sun Staff

Paint remover, high-pressured water and a kind, gentle touch are being used to remove fluorescent orange paint that vandals sprayed last week onto three marble statues at Druid Hill Park.

"You've got to be careful with this," Jerry Brown, a worker from the city Department of Parks and Recreation, said yesterday.

As he talked, Brown stood uneasily on a scaffold and carefully smeared paint remover onto the face of a sculpture of Noah Walker, once a prominent Baltimore clothier.

The paint remover made the Walker statue, about 300 yards from the Conservatory in the western section of the park, appear to bleed orange.

"You damage this statue and it's done for good, so you've got to watch out," Brown said.

After the paint remover has set for about an hour, high-pressured water is used to wash away it and the paint.

"The problem is you have to watch out for certain parts of the statue because they might be more vulnerable than others," Brown said. "Sometimes, certain areas can't take the high pressure, so you have to use a bit lower-pressure."

Brown and two other crew members -- clad in yellow rain-slickers and boots -- cleaned a white marble replica of Christopher Columbus near the park's reservoir during the weekend. They plan to scrub the statue of George Washington tomorrow. A small section of concrete wall along the Cedar Avenue bridge that leads into the eastern section of the park also will be cleaned tomorrow, Brown said.

The vandalism occurred either early Friday or late Thursday night after thieves broke into a trailer at a job site near the park's swimming pool and tennis courts, police said.

Police have yet to determine what items were taken. However, they said at least one can of fluorescent orange spray paint was stolen.

Alma Bell, a spokesman for the Department of Parks and Recreation, said cleaning the statues would not be as expensive as originally thought because the statues can be cleaned by city work crews, rather than outside specialists.

Removing the paint from each statue takes about eight or nine hours, said William Smith, one of the workers cleaning the statues. A silicone coating might be applied to all the statues as a protectant.

"This should have never happened," Smith said. "You've got three people out repairing something that should have been left alone."

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