NYC and the History of the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is an icon that symbolizes the United States and the promise of freedom and hope. The torch-bearing statue with her crown and robe is one of the most easily recognized in the world. This famous landmark is extremely popular, and every year, the statue receives around four million visits from tourists. Despite its renowned status, people may not be as familiar with many of the facts associated with it or its history. One major fact that can easily be forgotten is that the Statue of Liberty was constructed in and transported from another country.
Engineering, Construction, and Crossing the Atlantic
The Statue of Liberty was originally called Liberty Enlightening the World and was conceived as a way to celebrate the American Declaration of Independence, which was approaching its centennial. It did not, however, get set into motion overnight, as a sculptor was not commissioned until 1865, which was roughly ten years after the idea was first proposed. The project was a collaboration between the U.S. and France. The bulk of the project, the statue itself, was to be built and assembled by the French, who commissioned sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi for its design. America's role was to build the pedestal on which the statue would stand.
Despite these plans, the project encountered a major problem in the form of funding. Both countries were able to successfully raise what was required courtesy of artistic contributions, such as an auction featuring the original copy of poet Emma Lazarus's sonnet The New Colossusand other forms of entertainment including prizefights. The fundraising efforts moved more swiftly in France, however, and America ultimately resorted to shaming tactics courtesy of Joseph Pulitzer and his newspaper The World. In the pages of his newspaper, he called out both the wealthy and the middle class for their failure to support what would be an important monument for the country.
With access to funds secured, the project was further challenged with structural issues due to its massive height. To take on this challenge, an engineer by the name of Gustave Eiffel, who would later build the Eiffel Tower, was brought onto the project. It was Eiffel's job to design the framework for the secondary skeleton and iron pylon.
In the United States, the construction of the statue's granite pedestal was completed in August 1885, a year after France completed the statue in 1884. The massive creation had to be disassembled and delivered in pieces to the U.S., where it would be assembled by the French. The parts, which amounted to 350 pieces packed into 214 crates, were shipped across the Atlantic on a frigate called the Isere and arrived in June 1885 at New York Harbor. After four months of reassembly, the statue was dedicated in a ceremony on Oct. 28, 1886. The unveiling was presided over by President Grover Cleveland ten years after the centennial for which it was planned.
The Rich History of Liberty Island
The pedestal for the Statue of Liberty was built inside a courtyard at Fort Wood, which is located on the island that was at the time known as Bledsoe's Island. The island was ideally located, as it placed the statue in a spot that would be highly visible and inspiring to those entering the country. The statue and its pedestal, which bears the sonnet The New Colossus on a plaque, were taken care of by the United States Lighthouse Board up until 1901. The War Department took on this responsibility until 1933, when the National Park Service took over its care. Before coming under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, the statue and Fort Wood were declared a national monument in 1924 courtesy of a presidential proclamation. Bedloe's Island was renamed Liberty Island in 1956.
Preserving the Statue for Future Generations
The Statue of Liberty has undergone a number of renovations to strengthen and help preserve it for future generations of Americans and immigrants. In 1982, a restoration project was approved by President Ronald Regan, and a public/private partnership raised the funds for the project. Repairs were made to the copper skin and internal iron structure. In addition, the torch and flames, which had been damaged, were replaced. The restoration lasted until 1986. Interior renovations to the statue were made in 2012, which added wheelchair access for the first time.