Defaced Charlotte Confederate memorials will be cleaned, returned to sites

Both Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte have made moves to clean and restore two Confederate war monuments found defaced Wednesday.

Thursday morning, the city of Charlotte removed the Confederate monument found spray painted with the word “Racist” to have it cleaned.

Shortly after the city announced its plans, Mecklenburg County officials said they hired a private Charlotte cleaning company to clear a monument between the Grady Cole Center and American Memorial Stadium of the cement vandals smeared on it a day earlier.

Police are investigating both incidents.

The spray-painted monument on city of Charlotte property stood at the Old City Hall on Trade Street. It was erected in 1977 to honor soldiers who fought during the Civil War. It will be placed in a city warehouse for cleaning, a city spokesman said.

It’s unclear how long the cleaning process will take, or what exactly is involved. As of now, the city plans to return the monument to its original location once it’s cleaned. But City Council will make the final call, the spokesman said.

The second monument defaced was unveiled in 1929 during the United Confederate Veterans’ 39th reunion. Last week, it was at the center of discussion between Mecklenburg County commissioners and members of the public on whether it should be removed in the wake of national debate about the display of the Confederate battle flag and other Confederate imagery, monuments included.

Maintenance workers on Wednesday found parts of the monument – including an engraving of the Confederate battle flag and an inscription praising soldiers for upholding the “Anglo-Saxon civilization of the South” – covered by cement.

State lawmakers are expected to soon vote on a measure that will make it harder to remove historic monuments. On Wednesday, the House Homeland Security Committee passed the bill, which might reach the House floor early next week.

Due to the severity of the damage on the pillar, the county on Thursday hired Stuart Dean, an international cleaning company headquartered in New York with offices on Clanton Road in Charlotte, to restore the monument on site, said Tim Turton, horticulture manager for the county’s parks and recreation department.

“It’s going to be a little bit tricky, they said, but they have some solvents they can use, and they can do some hand scraping,” Turton said. “They don’t intend to damage the monument at all.”

The county is accustomed to dealing with graffiti and vandalism on public art and structures, such as broken park benches and stolen plants, Turton said.

“We’re prepared usually to do this in-house but in this case we feel like we need somebody with a little more expertise,” he said. The department will use money it budgets for repairs to pay the company $300 to clean the memorial.

“If it happens again, we’ll clean it again,” he said.

Brian Cullen, Stuart Dean’s general manager, said monument restoration is the firm’s specialty: “This is our wheelhouse.”

Thursday, Cullen succeeded in scraping some of the concrete off the front of the monument but the backside, which bears the controversial “Anglo-Saxon” inscription, was mostly covered. Park rangers covered the monument with black plastic trash bags and tape to guard it against rain.

“(The cement) could bind a little harder” over time, said Cullen, adding that he expects the cleaning job to be done by Saturday.