Just when you think they’ve learned their lesson

Historic City News was contacted by a local resident who reported black, painted graffiti defacing some of St Augustine’s most valuable historical buildings, including City Hall. The graffiti, normally associated with a juvenile prank, is considered life threatening to properties, some of which are hundreds of years old.

Jill Pacetti and her family were downtown for breakfast this weekend when they came across the damage on buildings, walls and other property in the area of Cordova Street, Bridge Street, Grenada Street, and Charlotte Street in the Old City subdivision. They found damage from tagging as far away as the post office on King Street. The police were notified.

  • The city has had outbreaks of graffiti in the past. In September 2014, one of the obelisk monuments in Constitution Plaza was tagged. The north-facing base, seen as you exit through the Cathedral Basilica’s main doors, had been vandalized with the words “Be God” and the symbol of an upside-down cross. At the same time, the south face of a sign at 100 San Marco Avenue in front of the Prince of Peace Votive Church had be vandalized with the same message using a similar black spray paint.

The consequences can multiply when dealing with historic buildings and landmarks over those of commercial buildings. In those cases where they are tagged, the damage usually requires special solvents gentle enough not to erode the materials used in construction and double the man-hours in labor to complete the cleaning.

Historic City News reader Dan Holiday volunteered to help St Augustine city employees employ enough “elbow grease” to rub out spray paint damage to one monument last year. He said that he had hoped those responsible had learned their lesson, since police have made arrests previously in graffiti attacks.

Some materials, like the soft, native coquina, which was once mined on Anastasia Island, can be found in the foundation walls of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, and other 17th and 18th century structures downtown. Police apprehended vandals who defaced the fort with graffiti and they faced criminal prosecution.

  • In August 2011, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Toomey sentenced Scott Anthony Hill, 22, and Fang Chin Tsai, 20, both of Jacksonville, to 24-months of probation, one month of home detention, to pay $1,000 in fines and restitution to the National Park Service, and to perform community service at the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument for malicious damage to United States property. They were also charged in state court where they were fined additional fees and court costs and ordered to perform additional community service. The actual damage caused to the fort, more than 300 years since its initial completion in 1695, and the work required to remove the graffiti safely, is not measurable.
  • In a separate incident, police apprehended vandals who defaced “Firm” and “Faithful”, the lion statues at the west end of the bridge.  They, too, faced criminal prosecution.  St Augustine Police arrested Montezz Lamont Blackmon in August 2011 for spraying red paint covering the eyes and nose of one of the lions.  A 15-year-old girl with Blackmon admitted to “having paint” but said she did not spray any of it.  After finding him guilty, Judge Charles Tinlin sentenced Blackmon to 12-months supervised probation, 300-hours of community service, to make $721.93 in restitution to the City of St. Augustine, to pay fines and court costs of $848 and to write a letter of apology to the citizens of St. Augustine.

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