Scraping the paint off would destroy the cabin’s 145-year-old wood. Chemicals, too, could cause irreparable harm.
Staff at the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, which owns and maintains the cabin, were notified Thursday.
“We were all deeply saddened,” said Executive Director Maureen Kelly Jonason. “I liken it to someone mugging an elderly lady just for the fun of it, because it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t make any sense and certainly doesn’t do anybody any good.”
Neither Jonason nor a Moorhead police officer could make sense of the graffiti – an odd mix of letters, arrows, numbers and a dollar sign on the south side of the building.
That side faces the river, away from public view, and Jonason said its privacy probably made the act possible.
“The neighbors are very watchful and protective, and they call us whenever somebody’s acting up on the property,” she said.
Aside from the name “Norman” being painted on the cabin more than a decade ago and a few teenage boys hiding cars there after speeding in 2012, the cabin doesn’t get a lot of a criminal action.
But this incident has Jonason worried.
“One thing we have talked about is getting motion-sensitive cameras put up there, and maybe it’s time,” she said.
The local organization will wait to see what the Minnesota Historical Society recommends, but Jonason hopes to start on the removal soon.
Sadly, what makes the home worthy of the National Register of Historic Places are the same traits that make it difficult to restore.
Unlike modern homes, the cabin, constructed in 1870 by Swedish immigrant John Gustav Bergquist, cannot handle scraping, harsh chemicals or power washers.
“All of those things would be damaging,” Jonason said.
For Jonason, the act was senseless.
“I can’t understand what is in the minds of people who can purposefully damage a historic treasure,” she said. “I just don’t get it.”