By Monica Miller
1. Myth: The Bladensburg cross was originally placed on private property.
Fact: The cross was built on the Town of Bladensburg’s land with the approval and involvement of the town’s commissioners in 1919. The Town of Bladensburg gave American Legion Post 3 the “care” of the land and the cross after it was erected (but left unfinished in 1922). The town made clear that the land and the cross would revert back to Bladensburg if Post 3 disbanded.
2. Myth: The government only owns the land for traffic and safety reasons.
Fact: The Town of Bladensburg deliberately chose to showcase the cross by approving its erection on prominent town-owned property. The cross stood unfinished, but in cruciform, when the Town deeded it to Legion Post 3 for its “care” in 1922. In 1935 the governor asked the State Roads Commission to prevent the “desecration” of the cross, as it was threatened by the “proposed erection of a service station on the property.” A senator suggested that condemning the property would prevent such “desecration.”
And in 1960, the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission—a bi-county agency funded by Prince George’s and Montgomery counties—acquired the cross from the State Roads Commission for the purposes of “the future repair and maintenance of the monument.” It is unclear if the land the cross sits on was ever needed for traffic and safety reasons. Furthermore, any claim that the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission’s interest is limited to ensuring the public’s safety cannot be squared with its choice to rededicate the cross as a government war memorial after spending $100,000 on its renovation in 1985.
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