Since 1886, the Statue of Liberty has greeted immigrants looking for new beginnings and welcoming back those who call it home. She stands in the New York Harbor forever, symbolizing freedom and friendship between two countries. The 111-foot copper sculpture was a gift from France. The French shared the new nation’s political views and helped them during the Revolution war.
Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, known for his statue of Napoleon was commisioned for the job. He used the Roman goddess Libertas as inspiration, giving Lady Liberty a crown with seven points for seven continents and a torch to light the way for refugees from them all. She holds a tablet bearing the date July 4, 1776, the day America declared independence from Great Britain. A broken chain at her feet represents breaking free.
In 1865, Bartholdi traveled to the United States to find the best location for Lady Liberty. He was impressed by the grandeur of New York City and all it’s surrounding harbors. He settled on Bedloe’s Island, calling it the Gateway to America. It was agreed that America would build a pedestal for the statue. Both countries funded the project through donations and fundraising. Taking several years to complete, the figure was constructed in pieces that could be shipped across the Atlantic. American architect Richard Morris Hunt was commisioned for the pedestal, and civil engineer Charles P. Stone was given charge of attaching the statue to her base.
Sitting near the Ellis Island immigration station, Lady Liberty became a powerfully emotional sight for those who came to America during the 1910s and 1920s. The National Park Service took charge of her in 1933. Jurisdiction was enlarged to include all of Bedloe Island by 1937, and by 1956 the name had been changed to Ellis Island. The island was given to the National Park Service and became a part of what is now known as the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
Through the years it became apparent that renovations would need to be made to ensure she watched over the harbor for the rest of time. In 1982, President Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca, Chairman of Chrysler Corporation, to lead the restoration of the statue. Fundraising brought in $87 million. American and French architects, conservators, and engineers worked together to determine the best way to preserve the figure. Holes in her copper skin were repaired, layers of paint removed from the iron structure, and rusting iron armature bars replaced. The upper part of the torch, severely damaged by water was replaced with a replica of Bartholdi’s original.
On July 5th, 1986, the newly restored Lady Liberty was presented to the public on Liberty Island. She continues to stand, welcoming “the huddled masses yearning to be free.”