Statue of Liberty

"Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses Yearning to Breath Free, The wretched refuse of Your Teeming Shore; Send These, the Homeless, Tempest-Tost to Me, I Lift My Lamp Beside the Golden Door!" - The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, 1883

Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor

Statue of Liberty

Since 1886, the harbor of New York has seen Lady Liberty grace the island, formerly known as Bedloe, that stands guard in the water on the way to Manhattan. Six years later, she would be joined by Ellis Island, where twelve million immigrants that had plied the murky waters of the Atlantic Ocean and New York Harbor, now would marvel at the buildings that rose toward the sky on the horizon as they passed the largest statue in the modern world. The gilded bronze lady with the golden torch welcomed them to a new land as they went to the processing station for Federal immigrants on Ellis Island.

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Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty Then

Construction - The Statue of Liberty was conceived decades before its completion in 1886 by a Frenchman, Edouard de Laboulaye and friends, who thought that a gift from the nation of France to the United States would serve a multitude of purposes. It took Auguste Bartholdi twenty-one years to design and construct the huge sculpture, and Eiffel to design its interior, plus a good amount of fundraising for not only the statue, but the massive pedestal before it could even start construction. When the statue arrived on June 17, 1885, and subsequently completed and dedicated on October 28, 1886, it stood as a beacon to all those who plied the harbor of New York, both immigrants who then sailed into Castle Clinton and six years later into Ellis Island, and others. The statue and pedestal, at three hundred and five feet plus one inch from ground to torch, was the tallest structure in New York City in 1886 and the largest sculpture in the world at the time. The statue itself is one hundred and fifty-one feet plus one inch tall.

In the two decades it took to construct the statue, the two Frenchman, Edouard de Laboulaye and Auguste Bartholdi, took its completion on a circuitous route. In fact, the first viewing of a portion of the Statue of Liberty occurred in 1876 in Philadelphia at the Centennial Exhibition. Initially thought that the entire structure was to be completed in time for the world's fair, Bartholdi exhibited the torch and arm of the structure at the exhibition as part of its fundraising program. Ten years later, with the assistance of another French structural genius, Gustave Eiffel, who crafted the plan for the interior frame of the Statue of Liberty from his past success with bridge architecture, the Statue of Liberty would rise in the harbor of New York City to begin its history of welcoming free men and women into the United States.

Photo above: View of the Statue of Liberty from the Battery. Source: Library of Congress. Below: View of Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty on a foggy summer day from the ferry.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty Now

Today, both of these national treasures are open to the public as one national park called Statue of Liberty National Monument; Ellis Island added in 1990. Its Statue of Liberty island has welcomed visitors for over one century.

Statue Restoration - Completed in 1986, the Statue of Liberty restoration included the new torch, lit by spotlights at night, as well as a stainless steel infrastructure to replace its rusting iron.

The Need for Security - When the planes of 9/11/2001 slammed into the World Trade Center, in view of both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, many changes were necessary in the procedures to visit the Statue. After closing, the Statue opened again on August 3, 2004, but with an updated screening process to insure the safety of the sculpture. Part of that security included the necessity for timed tickets to limit the amount of people who could access the interior of the statue each day. Now, only 2,000 people are accommodated on the narrow passageways, as well as in the current museum.

Timed Tour Tickets - The current status of visitation at the Statue of Liberty, which requires Timed Tour Tickets for either the Fort Wood Tour (first level) or Observatory Tour (second level) inside the statue itself, as noted above, is problematic. Although understandable, it limits the amount of visitors who can fully see the site, including the statue and its museum, to two thousand per day or around ten percent of park visitors (In July, 19,000 per day on average visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island).

It is imperative for those who wish to visit the Statue of Liberty itself to get tickets to those tours in advance, or at worst, arrive at the Ferry Buildings early in the day, particularly in the summer when passengers on the first boat may be the only ones who have a chance at Tour tickets. If you do not have a tour ticket, there are exterior Statue tours, approximately forty minutes in length, that can be taken, however, this limits the time to be spent on Liberty Island to exterior visitation, no museum visit, strolls about the island, and refreshment at the concession stands.

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Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Statue of Liberty

Things You Should Not Miss

1. Get a timed ticket for entry into the Statue of Liberty. These tickets are at a premium. If you know the date you're going to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, book the tours online ahead of time. If you are arriving on an uncertain date, arrive early, especially in the summer, and catch the first ferry ride. Tour tickets are available on a first come first serve basis when you get your ferry ticket. Only 2,000 are available each day.

2. Take a moment to gaze onto the horizon. From every direction of both Ellis Island and Liberty Island, you can view a slice of America. From the concrete canyons of Manhattan, to the fort of Governor's Island, to Queens and Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the docks of Jersey City.

Image above: Immigrants in the processing center at Ellis Island after passing by the Statue of Liberty on their way. Courtesy Library of Congress.

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