Here’s a story that will raise the hair, if not the hackles of any cemetery historian.
Last summer, while walking around the southern edge of historic Fulton Street Cemetery, I was astonished to find that an early marble grave marker that I had seen and photographed before, had been ruthlessly vandalized by some nut case apparently seeking a place for misdirected artistic expression. For reasons that are utterly beyond understanding, the anonymous vandal had apparently removed the marker from the cemetery, painted it in colors and a manner of his own choosing, and then blithely replaced it for all to see and what…..admire??
The mode of the design chosen by the vandal betrays, among other things, his ignorance of the history of 19th century cemeteries like Fulton Street and the markers that inhabit them. The pointing hand at the center of the marker, which was originally intended as a reflection of a belief and expectation of resurrection has, in the painterly hands of this vandal, been converted to a tawdry expression of “we’re number one”, a message that certainly resonates far more with a 21st century moron than it ever would have with the occupant of the grave the marker decorates. This sort of stupid conduct reminds one of painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa or putting a pair of pants on DaVinci’s Horse.
Okay, so here’s the happy ending. When I saw the vandalized marker, I immediately brought it to the attention of the Director of City Cemeteries, Jim Arsulowicz. Jim shared my unhappiness, and went immediately to Fulton Street, where he removed the stone, and brought it back to his office to try to restore it. Sadly, because the stone was (originally) crafted of white marble, the paint used by the vandal proved to be quite indelible, and incapable of removal. Not to be deterred in his effort, Jim tested and ultimately applied another coat of paint to the stone, forever covering the offending paint job, and returning the marker to a semblance of its original appearance. The stone was returned to its original site, where hopefully it can safely and respectfully remain for at least another 150 years, without the artistic alterations of the lunatic fringe.
I have the hardest time understanding just what it is that would inspire someone to do something like this, but I can promise that if it happens again, within the sight lines of me or any of the many others who love and revere these historic sites, someone is going to receive a visit from the local constable.