An `embarrassing' faux pas at Courthouse East

Md. flag mistakenly hung upside down

July 04, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

It's not that the folks at the city's Department of Public Works or at Baltimore's Circuit Courthouse don't take pride in the Maryland state flag.

They just didn't realize the flag at Courthouse East on Calvert Street was flying upside down.

"I know it's upside down because I have a Maryland flag that I display at my house, and I know how it's supposed to be hung," said Circuit Judge Joseph McCurdy. "I don't know who's responsible for that, but I think they ought to just take it down and rehang it. It's probably just a mistake."

Exactly.

Blaine Lipski, chief of building maintenance for DPW's general services division, said the flag wasn't hung upside down intentionally.

"About three weeks ago, we took them down to attach the weight bars to prevent the wind from wrapping them around the poles," Lipski said yesterday, referring to the Maryland, U.S. and Baltimore flags. "Our people - as well as probably the rest of Baltimoreans - aren't up on flag etiquette. We'll definitely correct it on Friday. If it was brought to our attention sooner, we would have corrected it right away."

The Maryland flag was first flown Oct. 11, 1880, in Baltimore at a parade to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the city's founding, according to information on the state's Web site. Its colors - black and gold, and red and white, represent the families of George Calvert, first Lord of Baltimore, and of his mother's family, the Crosslands.

When hung properly, the black and gold squares appear in the top left and bottom right sections of the flag. But at Courthouse East, it's just the opposite. Across the street at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, the state flag is wrapped around the pole - apparently the weight bar didn't work - so it's hard to tell whether it, too, is upside down. Of course, today's the day Americans celebrate their country's independence. So the Maryland flag is, well, second fiddle, if you will.

Nonetheless, passers-by whose attention was drawn to the Maryland flag yesterday - whether they knew it was hung upside down without being told - agree it needs to be corrected.

"I think it's a big oops," said Larry Lennon, 25, of Baltimore's Mount Vernon area. "That's a major faux pas. On a state building, that's pretty bad."

Ann Thomas, 50, of Towson said that although the flag mistake is not that big a deal, "If you're gonna hang a flag, you should hang it correctly."

Many people were clueless that the flag was upside down.

"I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know it was upside down," said attorney Andy Alperstein, whose office has a window facing Courthouse East. "I could have stared at it all day and wouldn't have known."

Marty Tobb, 51, of Essex also didn't know but said the error should be corrected.

But Eric Maynor, 42, of Towson is retired from the Army National Guard. He knew the flag was upside down.

"They ought to come up here and change it," Maynor said. "It's not good for us. It makes the courthouse look bad. It's embarrassing."

Kevin McDevitt, 27, of Parkville also knew the flag was hung incorrectly. A law clerk, McDevitt works in the homicide division of the Baltimore state's attorney's office.

"I don't know how often they take them down and put them back up," McDevitt said. "I don't think very many people are going to notice, to tell you the truth."

That may be. But now that Public Works is aware of the goof, Lipski vows to rectify it.

"The United States flag is a lot easier," Lipski joked. "The stars and the blue [background] go upright. It would be kind of hard to mess that one up."

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