She’s got to be one of my favourite New York City sights…albeit much smaller than I expected on first viewing – television really skews the whole perspective / scaling thing with those wonderful close up shots they do on CSI:NY… If you, like me, got your first glimpse of her from the Staten Island Ferry with Carly Simon singing her heart out in your head as you desperately scanned the horizon for your first glimpse of her, you realised that she’s that dot in the middle of the bay. It’s not her… she’s a well proportioned lady – statuesque in every sense of the word – it’s the sheer size and scale of Manhattan and the Harbour , the physical distance between the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and her home that’s MUCH bigger than you think – but she’s still heart-wrenchingly beautiful and brings tears to my eyes.
Here’s a few bits a pieces taken from the ‘net about what I think you can tell I believe is one of the most gob-smackingly wonderful pieces of architecture / art with its home in the Big Apple.
Her ‘Vital Statistics’ (courtesy of http://www.statueofliberty.org )
· Total overall height from the base of the pedestal foundation to the tip of the torch is 305 feet, 6 inches
· Height of the Statue from her heel to the top of her head is 111 feet, 6 inches
· The face on the Statue of Liberty measures more than 8 feet tall
· There are 154 steps from the pedestal to the head of the Statue of Liberty
· A tablet held in her left hand measures 23′ 7″ tall and 13′ 7″ wide inscribed with the date JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776)
· The Statue has a 35-foot waistline
· There are seven rays on her crown, one for each of the seven continents, each measuring up to 9 feet in length and weighing as much as 150 pounds
· Total weight of the Statue of Liberty is 225 tons (or 450,000 pounds)
· At the feet of the Statue lie broken shackles of oppression and tyranny
· The exterior copper covering of the Statue of Liberty is 3/32 of an inch thick (less than the thickness of two pennies) and the light green color (called a patina) is the result of natural weathering of the copper.
Her ‘Pedigree’… (Text courtesy of the National Park Service)
Sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a sculpture with the year 1876 in mind for completion, to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. The Statue was a joint effort between America and France and it was agreed upon that the American people were to build the pedestal, and the French people were responsible for the Statue and its assembly in the United States. However, lack of funds was a problem on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In France, public fees, various forms of entertainment, and a lottery were among the methods used to raise funds. In the United States, benefit theatrical events, art exhibitions, auctions and prize fights assisted in providing needed funds.
Bartholdi required the assistance of an engineer to address structural issues associated with designing such a colossal copper sculpture. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (designer of the Eiffel Tower) was commissioned to design the massive iron pylon and secondary skeletal framework which allows the Statue’s copper skin to move independently yet stand upright. Back in America, fund raising for the pedestal was going particularly slowly, so Joseph Pulitzer (noted for the Pulitzer Prize) opened up the editorial pages of his newspaper, “The World” to support the fund raising effort. Pulitzer used his newspaper to criticize both the rich who had failed to finance the pedestal construction and the middle class who were content to rely upon the wealthy to provide the funds. Pulitzer’s campaign of harsh criticism was successful in motivating the people of America to donate.
Financing for the pedestal was completed in August 1885, and pedestal construction was finished in April of 1886. The Statue was completed in France in July, 1884 and arrived in New York Harbor in June of 1885 on board the French frigate “Isere” which transported the Statue of Liberty from France to the United States. In transit, the Statue was reduced to 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates. The Statue was re-assembled on her new pedestal in four months time. On October 28th 1886, the dedication of the Statue of Liberty took place in front of thousands of spectators. She was a centennial gift ten years late.
Visiting Liberty Island’s Resident
Following the 9/11 attacks, the entire statue was closed to the public. The base reopened on August 3rd, 2004, but the crown remained off limits. On July 4, 2009, the crown once again opened to visitors – albeit with a health warning about the 12 storey climb via the narrow spiral staircase to the top. (The torch was closed in 1916 after a saboteurs’s bomb.) Here’s a link to the New York Times article with more details and links if you’re interested!
For me, I prefer seeing her from the water, fair weather or foul… the thought of actually landing on Liberty Island and doing the ‘tour’ just isn’t my cup of tea – the queues, piped music and ALOT of people milling around would spoil the air of dignity she wears so well. (For anyone interested in doing the ‘5c tour’, Statue Cruises are the folks to get in touch with.)