Washington Monument Could Take Weeks to Restore After Vandalism

The National Park Service says it's hopeful it can remove red paint splattered on the Washington Monument in an act of vandalism but is concerned the incident might leave a mark on the structure's surface.

The U.S. Park Police on Tuesday said they arrested a man accused of using red paint to scrawl a lewd message on the national landmark and sloshed a large amount beside the words. Now the Parks Service says teams will be acting quickly to prevent the red paint from setting into the permeable surface of the monument.

Mike Litterst, spokesperson for the National Mall, told Washington, D.C., ABC affiliate WJLA that the Park Service's in-house conservation team will be at the monument first thing Wednesday morning to begin removing the paint.

"One of the concerns, of course, is marble is a very porous material, so we need to get to it quickly before it absorbs much of the paint," he said.

Vandalism at Washington Monument
U.S. Park Police guard the Washington Monument after a vandal scrawled graffiti and threw red paint on the national landmark in Washington, D.C. A police spokesman said a man was in custody. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Litterst told the station he's hopeful the cleanup effort will play out similarly to a 2013 incident in which the Lincoln Memorial had to be closed after a person tossed green paint on the 19-foot statute of President Abraham Lincoln. Both monuments are made of marble, Litterst said, and the Lincoln Memorial was restored without any lingering trace of vandalism.

Litterst told WJLA that it'll likely take "a number of treatments" over the next two to three weeks to completely remove the paint from the Washington Monument, adding that the conservation crews are familiar with the work ahead of them.

The Lincoln Memorial was again cleaned in 2017 after a vandal targeted it with red spray paint. Previously, restoration crews have cleaned up damage to other national monuments in the nation's capital that were defaced with paint, with black markers often used to convey political messages.

"We have one of the largest outdoor sculpture collections in the nation here on the National Mall," Litterst told WJLA. "So this is something that, unfortunately, they've done before and have the skills to do."

In a statement to Newsweek, Park Police said, "the area at the base of the monument will be temporarily closed."

"National Park Service conservators will work on the restoration process," police said in the statement. "The investigation is ongoing and there is no more specific information at this time."

Located in the National Mall, the Washington Monument is a 555-foot marble obelisk that was completed in 1884 to honor the country's first president George Washington, according to the park service.