A Georgetown park dedicated to Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and to the flag has been vandalized during this summer of protests and unrest.
The park, the bust of Key and the flagpole which flies the 15-star, 15-stripe American flag, officially known as the Star-Spangled Banner, was created by Georgetown residents and businesspersons with private donations. The acre at 34th and M Streets NW, next to Key Bridge, was given by the Francis Scott Key Foundation to the American people in 1993. It is part of the National Park System.
Key lived in Georgetown, D.C., from 1804 to around 1833 with his wife Polly and their six sons and five daughters. Their land was across from what is now the Car Barn (3500 block of M Street) and their backyard went all the way to the Potomac River; the C&O Canal did not yet exist.
A lawyer and an orator, Key was involved in his church and community in the town of 5,000 Georgetowners. He was the district attorney for Washington in the Jackson and Van Buren administrations. Of course, he is best known for penning what became America’s national anthem during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812.
Key is criticized in the 21st century for being a slave owner, yet he also represented a young Black man suing Georgetown College for his freedom in the 1830s.
Over the weekend in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, protesters toppled statues of Francis Scott Key and Father Junípero Serra, as well as a bust of President Ulysses Grant. Coincidentally, a 1991 cross-country flag relay to Georgetown’s Francis Scott Key Park began in front of the Key statue in San Francisco.
On June 23, the National Park Service’s Dana Dierkes, Chief of Interpretation, Education, & Outreach for Rock Creek Park, told The Georgetowner: “The statue of Francis Scott Key at the Francis Scott Key Memorial in Georgetown was vandalized recently. The U.S. Park Police have taken a report of the vandalism, and Rock Creek Park staff plan to clean the statue this week.”