The 5.5ha site of the statue has been called Liberty Island since 1956. Originally called Oyster Islands, it became Love Island in 1670. In the Revolutionary War it was named Kennedy’s Island, and in 1841, when a fort was built on it, it became Fort Wood. The star-shaped wall around the base is part of the former US Fort Wood, and formed part of the defences of New York City between 1841 and 1877.
In 1986 the statue, which was declared a national monument in 1924, underwent a much-needed restoration programme. She had stood for 100 years, and had begun her existence 12 years before that when the French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi started to interpret the design of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame. The French writer Edouard de Laboulaye is credited with having the idea of the statue at the time of the USA centennial in 1876. He felt that the 1778 alliance between France and the USA should be suitably commemorated. Eiffel duly got busy at his drawing board, designing a skeleton of iron, and Bartholdi put on the “flesh” of half-inch thick hammered copper sheets which were bolted together.
The statue, paid for by the French, took 10 years to build. In 1884 it was dismantled, put into crates, loaded on the French ship Isre, and eventually reassembled and mounted on its pedestal, paid for by the Americans, in 1886. It was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland on 28 October of that year, since when it has been passed by every ship entering New York Harbor.
Million of immigrants have been beckoned into the USA by the statue’s 13 meters right arm.
To visit the statue you need to buy a timed ticket at least 48 hours in advance if you don’t want to spend 2 or 3 hours at the ticket office and in line waiting for the first available ferry. You can do this online (see www.statueofliberty.org for more information) or by phone on 1-866-STATUE4 or (212) 269 5755. Departures are from the South Ferry at Battery Park, Manhattan.
Security is, not surprising, very strict these days and you won’t be allowed to carry large bags around with you. Once inside the statue, you will learn all about its history, have a chance to examine its incredible engineering, and be taken to the top where, after an elevator ride and a climb of a final 24 steps, you reach the observatory. Without a timed ticket you can still explore the island and take a ranger-led walking tour, see other exhibits and enjoy the shop and restaurant, but you won’t be able to enter the statue itself.
- Open: daily, 9am-5pm (longer in summer).
- Closed: 25 December
- Subway: 4 and 5 to Bowling Green or N and R to Whitehall.
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