Vandal splashes paint at National Cathedral; woman arrested

The National Cathedral in Washington.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON - A woman was taken into custody Monday after someone splashed paint on two chapels inside the Washington National Cathedral, the third such incident in the nation’s capital in four days.

The Lincoln Memorial was defaced with paint Friday, as was a statue at one of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall on Monday.

The woman, whose identity was not immediately released, is expected to be charged with defacing public property in the cathedral incident, said District of Columbia Metropolitan Police spokesman Paul Metcalf. He said it was a misdemeanor.

Cathedral officials closed the Bethlehem Chapel, at the crypt level below the main cathedral, on Monday after finding green paint on an organ. The paint was still wet, leading officials to believe the vandalism had just occurred.


Officials closed the chapel and searched the building. After more green paint was found in the Children’s Chapel on the main level, police closed the entire cathedral.

Bethlehem Chapel, completed in 1912 and the oldest portion of the National Cathedral, was the site of burial rites for President Woodrow Wilson in 1924, and his tomb for more than three decades.

The paint in Bethlehem Chapel was mainly on the oak casing of the organ, according to a cathedral source who was not authorized to speak to the news media.

In the tiny chapel dedicated to children, paint was splattered on a carved and gilded wooden screen behind the altar. There was also a small amount of paint on the stone altar.

The source said the paint appeared to be latex, which would be easier to remove than other paints, but that the limestone used in the cathedral is absorbent and may be difficult to clean.

District of Columbia police and U.S. Park Police are working together in the investigation. They did not say whether the recent incidents were related.

The Smithsonian statue is that of Joseph Henry, who served as the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. “It’s minor vandalism; it will be removed tomorrow,” said Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas.

Green symbols were found painted on the granite base of the bronze statue, which is located outside the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall.

“We want to make sure we have the right solvent so as to not damage the statue itself,” St. Thomas said.

Investigators were examining the paint to determine whether it matched the type of paint found at the other locations, she said.

At the Lincoln Memorial, workers have removed about 90% of the green paint splashed across Lincoln’s lap, and have installed scaffolding around the damaged area, a National Park Service spokesman said.


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