Hermitage unveils restored tombs after unprecedented vandalism case

FOX 17 News

After vandals left some serious damage on the tomb of Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel, leaders at the 7th president's historic Tennessee home did not waste any time restoring the landmark to its original condition.

They unveiled the finished product at the Hermitage Sunday.

April 26, 2018 marked a first in the nearly 200 year history of Andrew Jackson's Hermitage.

"It was a very sad and disappointing day when we came out and found this, I was driving the kids to school and heard about it and got here as quick as I could," recalled Vice President of Preservation and Site Operations Tony Guzzy.

Someone marred the stone covers of the graves with black and red paint. Profanities, the word "killer," and anarchist symbols were all written on the porous limestone.

"I think there's a lot of folks out there right now struggling to define their past and their future," said Guzzy.

But Sunday marked a fresh start and an important step in moving forward as leaders proudly unveiled the product of 11 days of challenging restoration.

"Whoever worked on it did a mighty fine job, I don't know what they put on there but it seemed like it would be very difficult to get it off, so to those folks responsible for cleaning the monuments up thank you very much," says Jim Benassi, who came out for the unveiling.

Conservators from Chicago were brought in to perform a laser cleaning process to remove the markings, even using special tools to dissolve paint that penetrated deeper than the surface.

The vandalism, a first for the historic site, that they hope will also be the last.

"In the future we would rather folks come here as a site where they feel it's open and they can discuss things they don't agree with in our past, rather than causing damage to a site like this," says Guzzi.

Moving forward the Hermitage plans to have the tomb guarded 24/7.

They're also installing security cameras and a perimeter around the grounds to prevent and deter future vandalism.

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