Bryan P. Sears//August 29, 2022
//August 29, 2022
ANNAPOLIS — A memorial honoring a Supreme Court justice from Maryland will need repairs a year after it was rededicated.
The statue and memorial honoring Thurgood Marshall stand in Lawyers’ Mall, an Annapolis gathering place for protests and rallies. It is adjacent to the Department of Legislative Services building, which is being razed and replaced.
It was not immediately clear if the demolition of the building played a part in the damage.
Nick Cavey, a spokesman for the Department of General Services, said in an email that the agency “is in the process of investigating and identifying the cause of the column damage.”
“The investigation includes identifying cost of damage, cost of repairs, and if there is potential recourse from the original installation of the columns that was done as part of the Lawyers’ Mall reconstruction project. At this time, the entablature that rests on top of the pillars does not appear to be damaged. The Marshall statue also does not appear to be damaged and is not scheduled to be relocated,” Cavey said.
Cavey issued the statement in response to questions about the columns, which on Wednesday were laying on their side. All of them showed signs of cracks or missing pieces. Some had been cut off of the base to which they had been attached. Workers at the time had encased the bronze statue of Marshall in a box that was later painted.
The bronze statue of Marshall has been a prominent feature in Lawyers’ Mall for more than two decades.
It was returned to the mall and rededicated in April 2021 after a two-year absence to allow for work on utilities under the mall.
Officials with the Maryland State Archives, which oversees the monument as part of the state’s art collection, made recommendations this year to protect the work during the demolition of the adjacent Department of Legislative Services building.
“We were planning on doing that with the columns and entablatures,” said Catherine Rogers Arthur, director and senior curator of the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property.
Arthur said she and others were alerted in July by the contractor and Department of General Services about damage to the six columns that are part of the monument. One column was of particular concern because it had deteriorated more than the others.
The cause is not known, but Arthur said it might not be related to the demolition.
“I just don’t think there’s a real specific,” she said. “It’s not like a forklift ran into them or any of that.”
A decision was made to brace them temporarily using steel beams. Closer examination revealed the damage was not superficial. The monument would have to be disassembled again.
The memorial, designed by Maryland artist Toby Mendez, was dedicated in 1996.
The original design featured an 8-foot bronze statue of Marshall. The monument incorporated the facade of the Department of Legislative Services building and featured six columns between the building and statue meant to give the appearance of Marshall on the steps of a courthouse.
Three columns on either side of the justice held up an entablature carrying the phrase “Equal Justice Under Law.”
Inscribed on the wall in the mall are key dates in Marshall’s life, including his graduation from high school in Baltimore; key legal battles such as the seminal Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka; and his tenure as the first Black justice on the nation’s highest court.
Benches around the monument include the figure of Donald Gaines Murray, as well as two children symbolizing Marshall’s victory in the Brown v. Board case.
The mall where it was placed was once known as State House Square and was home to the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1935. Marshall argued a number of integration cases before the state court, including one that resulted in Murray’s acceptance into the University of Maryland, School of Law.
The memorial was removed in 2018 to allow for work on utilities running under the plaza. Some pieces were stored. The Marshall statue was temporarily relocated to the Court of Appeals.
It was returned to Lawyers’ Mall in late 2020 and rededicated last year.
It’s possible, Arthur said, that the initial cause may be related to when the monument was disassembled three years ago.
“I do think from having been on site when it was disassembled back in 2018, when it was installed it was considered permanent without any regard for pulling back apart so that it would be easily disassembled,” she said. “It’s possible the damage could have occurred then. Normally when you install columns they stay there and you don’t take them down and cart them off somewhere, reinstall them.”l