Vandals on Sunday defaced the South End’s Harriet Tubman House with graffiti, damaging the area around a mural that the community center’s longtime operator said it intends to preserve amid plans to demolish the building and replace it with a condo development.
United South End Settlements, which last year agreed to sell the building at at 566 Columbus Ave. to a developer, said in a statement that the graffiti contained “inaccurate messages concerning the preservation of the iconic Honor Roll mural.”
Images distributed by United South End Settlements showed spray paint covering a partial wall in front of the mural. Boston Police Officer James Moccia, a department spokesman, said there had been no report of vandalism at that address.
The planned demolition of the Tubman House has sparked a debate over gentrification and development in the South End. United South End Settlements sold the property to the development company New Boston Ventures in what it described as a desperate measure to shore up its finances and ensure that it can continue to pay for the programming it provides in the neighborhood.
Critics of the planned demolition have said the Tubman House is a critical resource for lower-income residents in a neighborhood that keeps getting wealthier, and that the property should remain in service to communities that are being pushed out.
The “Honor Roll” mural was created in 1999 by local artist Jameel Parker, who died in 2017. According to the late artist’s website, the colorful mural on two sides of the Tubman House is about the history and people of the South End, and it depicts a “collage of historical figures, life long residents and the current day.”
The organization is working with New Boston Ventures to preserve the mural.
“We respect free speech. We respect difference of opinion. We also believe that vandalizing the public view of the mural and defacing a building is not only shameful, but also destructive and disrespectful,” United South End Settlements said.