Mural worth millions damaged by vandals at Philly’s historic Shofuso House

The historic Japanese Shofuso House in Philly's Fairmount Park was broken into last night. Vandals caused an estimated $2 million in damage. (Courtesy of Shofuso House)

The historic Japanese Shofuso House in Philly's Fairmount Park was broken into last night. Vandals caused an estimated $2 million in damage. (Courtesy of Shofuso House)

Editor’s note: A previous  version of this story misstated the value of the damages as being $2 million. The damaged mural is worth $2 million. 

The historic Shofuso House in Fairmount Park was broken into Wednesday night by vandals who caused damage to artwork worth millions of dollars, according to staff.

Rob Buscher, associate director of organization culture, says police response has been slow.

The Shofusu House is made by traditional Japanese architecture and building techniques, next to a bucolic koi pond. It is owned by the city and managed as a public attraction by the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia.

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Buscher said vandals broke through a wall panel to get inside the house and caused multiple punctures in a large mural painted on panels by the contemporary Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju, commissioned in 2007. The perpetrators did not steal anything, but nevertheless caused damage to the mural worth an estimated $2 million.

When the house staff discovered the break-in the next morning, they called the police around 10 a.m. Reached by phone shortly after 4 p.m. – six hours later – Buscher said police had still not arrived to make a report.

Buscher said that, according to a contact at Senator Vincent Hughes’ office, police had driven to the house earlier in the day, but did not enter the property or contact staff.

“This is par for the course,” said Buscher, explaining this kind of problem with crime and a slow response from the city has happened before. In the 1970s and 80s, the house was neglected by the city and saw multiple break-ins.

Since then the Japan America Society has taken over maintenance and programming at the house, but Buscher said recently the property has had problems with cars being broken into, in its city-owned parking lot.

Buscher said he contacted the Mayor’s office about the incident and has received responses from City Hall, but the house will be closed to the public until a police report can be made.

Buscher has not seen any direct evidence so far that suggests this act of vandalism is a hate crime, but “as the only physical site in Philadelphia that is identifiably Japanese, we cannot rule out the intentionality of this vandalism amid ongoing anti-Asian hate,” he said.

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