Taggers' 'art' has museum director climbing the wall

Published April 5, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - Virginia Jackson was ticked off when she pulled up to the Russell Street Depot Tuesday morning. There, scrawled across the back side of the freshly restored 1880s railroad car, someone had spray-painted their calling card in huge black letters.

It was bad for two reasons, said Jackson.

"One, it's just plain wrong," Jackson offered with a mild snarl. "And the other thing is it means I'm probably going to be the one that has to go out there and paint it again."

Painting is not the kind of activity that the director of the Hernando Historical Association particularly enjoys. She would rather be putting the finishing touches on the inside of the building where the museum houses its genealogy records and numerous pioneer artifacts.

"This kind of stuff gets to me," said Jackson. "We work so hard to do positive things for the community and then we see this. The world's getting crazier all the time."

Jackson said that as far as she knows, the depot, which sits at the edge of Russell Street Park in South Brooksville, has never been a target of vandals.

"We've had a broken window once, but that was about it," she said. "They didn't even try to get inside."

The graffiti that were left across the side of the antique train car is similar to that found in urban areas where gangs "tag" their turf with spray-painted symbols and street names.

Brooksville police Detective Randall Orman said he didn't know if the markings are gang-related and that his department plans to meet with investigators with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office to try to identify the culprit.

"It's a concern," said Orman. "We don't normally see this kind of stuff in this area."

Built of cypress planking, the railroad car, which once served as a galley for a central Florida lumber operation, is a source of pride to the museum association. CSX Railroad donated it to the museum in 1996. In 2004, the Landmar Group offered to pay for its restoration in exchange for using as a temporary sales office at its Southern Hills Plantation development.

Jackson hopes that the vandalism is just an isolated incident. Still, she plans to add a special graffiti-resistant coating over the new paint.

"I hope it works," she said. "At my age, I don't like climbing up on ladders to paint anymore."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 848-1435.