Houston 101

Bronze Christopher Columbus in Montrose Park Vandalized With Paint

Columbus was covered in red paint just one hour before this picture was taken.
Columbus was covered in red paint just one hour before this picture was taken. Photo by Meagan Flynn
Apparently no statues are safe. Not even one of original slaver Christopher Columbus.

Concerned citizens called the Houston Police Department around 10:30 Thursday night to report that Christopher Columbus, in Bell Park on Montrose Boulevard, had been vandalized, spokesman Victor Senties said. Bright red paint was splattered from the Italian explorer's head to his toes, transforming him into a bloodied explorer pointing to some far-off discovery.

"The paint was already dry when we got there," Senties said, "so at this point we do not know who did this or when."

By 10 a.m. Friday, however, the bronze Columbus was looking like himself again. Three men with two restoration companies, headed by Robert Pringle and Byron Kessler, worked swiftly early Friday morning to remove the paint, coating the statue in a special glaze before hosing it down. The red paint peeled off like a scab.

The vandalism comes in the wake of a growing chorus of demands across the country that Confederate statues be removed, including in Houston, following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend. While white nationalists, Klansmen, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and President Donald Trump and others say the statues need to stay because, as Trump said, "the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced," hoards of protesters across the country detest the fact that monuments glorifying slavery defenders still exist in our cities, towns, and parks.

Columbus's immediate interest in putting Native Americans to work as slaves is well-documented. So perhaps it's no surprise, then, that he's been thrown into the mix.

The statue was erected in 1992 to mark the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the New World. It was donated to the City of Houston by the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Greater Houston, Inc. and sculpted by Joe L. Incrapera. Columbus is described on the statue's inscription as an "Explorer" and "Map maker."

Senties, the police spokesman, encouraged anyone with information about the vandals to come forward.

Protesters are expected to call for the destruction of a Confederate statue called "Spirit of the Confederacy" in Sam Houston Park on Saturday.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MEAGAN FLYNN
Photo by Meagan Flynn

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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn