A car crashed into a Washington Monument park wall on Thursday at approximately 10 a.m., overturning and injuring a passenger and damaging the historic monument.
The flipped over four-door gray sedan blocked traffic on Washington Place just south of the 178-foot column to West Centre Street for at least an hour while police investigated and roped off a damaged stone wall in the park's South Garden.
Two men were in the car, which was a rental vehicle licensed in Connecticut, when the driver fell asleep and crashed into the wall, causing the car to flip over, police spokesman Det. Vernon Davis said. The driver was uninjured but paramedics transported the passenger to University of Maryland Medical Center with neck and back injuries.
No one else was involved or injured. Davis did not know if either men wore seat belts. Both air bags in the four-door sedan could be seen visibly deployed at the crash scene, where the bumper and a tire had broken off from the crumpled car.
Police roped off the areas of the park near the accident and warned people that the stone wall was in danger of falling. Davis acknowledged that the historic park was damaged but it was too soon to estimate the extent.
The Washington Monument column was built in 1829. The wall the car struck, just south of the column, is part of the smaller Lafayette Monument, built on one of the park's four squares. Dedicated in 1924, the Lafayette Monument features a bronze sculpture of the famous French aristocrat and military officer riding a marching horse. The Marquis de Lafayette served as a major-general in the Continental Army under George Washington and was also a powerful liaison to France, garnering French support that helped the Continental Army defeat the British.
In a Dec. 5 op-ed article in the Baltimore Sun, Mark R. Fettig, a founding board member and vice president of the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy, dedicated to restoring and maintaining the Washington Monument, said the park had fallen into disrepair and was in drastic need of restoration. Working with the city, his group proposed a $3 million public-private restoration project of which $1.5 million has already been raised.