A damaged monument to Christopher Columbus — believed to be the oldest in America — will be repaired and rededicated, a key Baltimore official said Monday.
Eric Holcomb, the city’s director of the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, said it’s possible the monument will remain dedicated to the Italian explorer but also be rededicated to include native Americans.
“The important thing is to make sure the community can support it,” he said.
Holcomb said Baltimore officials are working with City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, who is conducting a survey of residents who live near the vandalized monument to see what they want at the site. Dorsey argues the 225-year-old monument to Columbus in Herring Run Park should be replaced, but not with a new monument to the explorer.
“Councilman Dorsey is collecting information. Once we get a whole bunch of ideas, we’ll whittle them down,” Holcomb said. “I think it’s really important that we tell accurate history.”
Holcomb, who works for Mayor Catherine Pugh, said the mayor likely will make a final decision in 30 to 60 days.
The city owns the monument, a 44-foot obelisk believed to be the first monument in the country to honor Columbus. It was erected in 1792 by Frenchman Chevalier d’Anemours to honor the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ journey from Europe in 1492.
The monument was on d’Anemours’ estate at what is now the intersection of Harford Road and North Avenue until it was moved to its current location in 1963.
In August, someone took a sledgehammer to it.
A video posted to YouTube by a user named “Popular Resistance” showed a man repeatedly striking the base of the monument. Another person held a sign that read: “Racism, tear it down.” Another sign was taped to the monument reading: “The future is racial and economic justice.”
Columbus was an Italian explorer who in 1492 landed on an island in the Bahamas. He later explored other Caribbean islands and Central America, but never reached the land today known as the United States of America. Those opposed to his honorifics accuse him of initiating the transatlantic slave trade and committing violence against people native to the lands he explored.
The city has recovered about $4,500 in insurance money from the smashing of the monument, Holcomb said.
In 2016, the Baltimore City Council narrowly voted down an attempt to strip Columbus of his holiday within the city limits. A bill sponsored by Councilman Brandon Scott that would have renamed the day for indigenous people and Italian-Americans needed eight votes to pass, but the final tally was 7-6 with two members abstaining.
Italian-American heritage groups lobbied council members to maintain the observance as Columbus Day, arguing it was less about the Italian explorer and more about an opportunity to honor their heritage.
The obelisk, in an area of Herring Run Park known as Heinz Park, is not the only monument to Columbus in Baltimore. A statue of Columbus was installed in 1892 in Druid Hill Park, and one in Harbor East was dedicated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.