Fort Greene Park advocates aim to revive gift of Spain lost to vandalism

An historic plaque in Fort Greene Park, donated by Spain during America’s bicentennial in 1976 but long since removed due to vandalism, may finally come home.

Just down a path leading away from the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, dedicated 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.

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, New York State Organizing Secretary of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). 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.

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 DAR hope to “crowd-fund” from the local community to finally remove the embarrassing eyesore. But for now, they simply aim to spread awareness.

The plaque reads 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.

UPDATE: Eric Adams released a statement on the crowdfunding for the restoration: "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. 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."