standard Fort Greene Park Advocates Aim to Revive Gift of Spain Lost to Vandalism

Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly and Ruth Goldstein stand behind the desecrated plaque site in Fort Greene Park (Photo by Matthew Taub)

Jose Nieto, Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly and Ruth Goldstein stand behind the desecrated plaque site in Fort Greene Park (Photo by Matthew Taub)

An historic plaque in Fort Greene Park, donated by Spain at America’s bicentennial but long since removed due to vandalism, may finally come home.

Just down a path leading away from the main Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument–erected in 1908 to our country’s first prisoners of war–lies the former spot of a plaque meant to honor 126 Spaniards who died on the prison ships along with America revolutionary-era soldiers. The Plaque was a gift of Juan Carlos of Spain, and placed at the site in 1976.

The monument in better days (Daughters of the American Revolution)

The monument in better days (Daughters of the American Revolution)

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

“Sadly, vandalism and the elements soon took their toll, and by the 1980s the plaque had to be removed,” said Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly, NY State Organizing Secretary of the Daughters of the American Revolution. On both counts, she faulted the largely horizontal placement of the monument as exacerbating its desecration. Officials hope to repair the original tablet and reinstall it vertically at the site.

Borough President Adams surveys the area with Barbara Skinner (Photo by Matthew Taub)

Borough President Adams surveys the area with Barbara Skinner (Photo by Matthew Taub)

And in that regard, good news may finally be in order: the Fort Greene Park Conservancy recently received an estimate to replace the tribute. The tally is roughly $25,000, which the Conservancy and the D.A.R. hope to “crowd-fund” from the local community to finally remove the embarrassing eyesore. But for now, they simply aim to spread awareness.

The Borough President expressed his support for a restoration to take place.

“Brooklyn’s history should not be a mystery to its millions of residents and visitors; it should be front and center on display for all of us to be educated, enriched and empowered,” said Borough President Eric Adams. “The Fort Greene Park Conservancy and the Brooklyn chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution have done outstanding work to bring this monument back to our shores, strengthening our ties with Spain and reminding us of the sacrifices made to make this great nation possible.”

Watch a short video about the monument’s current status below.

The plaque read as follows:

ON THE OCCASION OF THE BICENTENNIAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA THIS PLAQUE IS DEDICATED BY H.M. JUAN CARLOS KING OF SPAIN TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE VALIANT SONS OF SPAIN WHO FOUGHT, SUFFERED AND DIED FOR THE CAUSE OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE BETWEEN 1779- 1783 AND WHOSE ASHES NOW REST PEACEFULLY IN BROOKLYN SOIL. LET IT BE PROCLAIMED THAT SPAIN RECALLS WITH PRIDE THE SACRIFICES OF THE 126 MEN WHOSE NAMES ARE KNOWN AND OF THE MANY OTHERS WHOSE IDENTITY IS LOST TO MEMORY BUT NOT TO THE TRIBUTE OF HISTORY. MCMLXXVI.

For more information, the Brooklyn Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution can be reached at http://www.congleton.name/BrooklynDAR/