AUGUSTA — A vandal Tuesday morning toppled a bronze bust of the late Gov. Percival Proctor Baxter that had been the focal point of the State House Hall of Flags for 41 years, and admired by thousands of tourists and schoolchildren.
“It’s very sad, tragic and inexplicable,” said Gov. Angus S. King. “It’s too bad.”
The vandal struck about 7:20 a.m., knocking the sculpture of Baxter face-down to the floor, and tipped the heavy marble pedestal on which it sat.
Capitol Security police apprehended Timothy Fairfield, 39, of Sidney in the Hall of Flags. He was charged him with criminal mischief and released.
Donald Suitter, chief of the Capitol Security police, said the charge might be upgraded to aggravated criminal mischief depending on the cost of repairing the statue and pedestal.
“For apparently no reason, a man entered the State House and either pushed or kicked the pedestal over,” said Suitter.
Of Fairfield, Suitter said, “He denies doing it. He was very calm and collected. He was waiting for us to come over to the Hall of Flags.”
Suitter said Fairfield had been arrested Monday by the Augusta Police Department for outstanding traffic warrants and had been released on bail. But Suitter said there was no explanation for the alleged behavior of Fairfield, and little was known about his background.
Marilyn Hutchinson, King’s receptionist, said, “I had just come in to work and heard a crashing sound that sounded like the ceiling falling down.”
Hutchinson said a cleaning woman told her that a man had pushed over the statue. Hutchinson then called Capital Security.
The broken statue was taken to the Maine State Museum for repair. Yellow police tape cordoned off the central area where the statue had stood surrounded by a brass rail.
State workers had to struggle to lift the marble pedestal. Rep. Herbert Adams, D-Portland, said the pedestal weighs between 600 and 700 pounds.
Adams is an expert on Gov. Baxter’s life and work, including his donation of thousands of acres of pristine wilderness around Mount Katahdin to the state to form Baxter State Park. Baxter was governor from 1921 to 1925.
Adams said sculptor Walker Hancock created the bronze bust of Baxter in a Rome, Italy, studio in 1955.
“Percival Baxter was very proud to have his bust sculpted in Rome,” said Adams. “His father, James Phinney Baxter, also had his bust done in Rome by another sculptor, Franklin Simmons. That bust is now at the Portland Public Library.”
As for the damage to the sculpture, Adams said, “The bust itself doesn’t seem to be too badly damaged. It took a little bonging. Governor Baxter took worse knocks when he was in office.”