We’ve all heard of Liberty Island, home to our nation’s most beloved and iconic symbol of freedom, The Statue of Liberty. But did you know that the island was originally named, Bedloe’s Island? Located in the Upper New York Bay and covering approximately 14 acres, Bedloe ‘s Island was at one time a small pox quarantine station. Privately owned for many years, it was eventually sold to the Corporation of the City of New York. Since the British had easily invaded New York during the Revolution, Bedloe’s Island had great strategic value as a defense post to protect future attacks against New York City. In 1880 the federal government began construction of an 11 pointed star shaped fort. The fort would eventually be known as Fort Wood, named in the memory of Eleazer D. Wood, an army hero in the War of 1812.
Built to Inspire
In 1865, a French politician and anti-slavery activist Edouard de Laboulaye proposed that a statue representing liberty be built for the United
States. This monumental statue was to commemorate the United States’ centennial of independence and the alliance between France and the U.S. during the American Revolution. Not entirely selfless, Laboulaye hoped that the statue would ultimately inspire French citizens to insist on democracy as well. While at a dinner in the summer of 1886, Laboulaye met a young sculptor by the name of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. Bartholdi fully supported Laboulaye’s idea, and in 1870 he began designing the statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World.” Work on the statue did not start until the 1870s. To truly make this a joint effort (and to help defer some of the cost)) Laboulaye suggested that the French finance the statue and that the American’s supply the pedestal and land.
They Loved New York
During the statue’s construction, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi frequently traveled to the United States to drum up support for the massive project. . He had maintained throughout his life that he had no prior thought to where the statue would reside until he entered New York harbor by ship. Bartholdi saw New York as the gateway to America, and he conceptualized the statue rising out of the star-shaped Fort Wood. Unfortunately, Americans were not as enthusiastic about this added expense. Private donations were practically nonexistent and work on the pedestal was almost stopped. Meanwhile, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Cleveland all expressed interest in securing the statue. Sensing that New York was going to lose this opportunity, Joseph Pulitzer of the World placed full page ads in his paper. His campaign criticized the rich for not donating, and chastised the middle class for counting on the rich. Donations began coming in to complete the project, and the campaign inspired over 120,000 contributors.
The World Watched
The completed statue arrived in New York from France in June of 1885 in 350 individual pieces, packed in approximately 215 crates. It took almost 165 men four months to re-assemble her on her new pedestal. On October 28th 1886, the dedication of The Statue of Liberty took place in front of thousands of spectators. With a full height of (including the foundation and pedestal) the monument reaches 305 feet. Lovingly cared for by the National Park Service, it is estimated that 3.5 million visitors visit The Statue of Liberty each year.
She’s Looked Great for 100+ years
Her copper skin, which hangs independently from a scaffolding system, was designed to endure the strong winds and elements that she would be exposed to in her New York Harbor home. In the early 20th century, the oxidation of The Statue of Liberty’s copper “skin” gave the statue its distinctive green color, known as verdigris. The Statue of Liberty has had many repairs over the years; the first, in 1918, to her copper skin.
By the 1980’s a major restoration to the Statue was needed. President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca to head up an effort to restore her by forming The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. Fundraising began for the $87 million restoration under a public/private partnership between the National Park Service and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. The massive restoration began in 1984 and the newly restored Statue was re-opened to the public on her centennial, July 5, 1986.
After the 9/11 attacks, the federal government closed the Statue of Liberty for a year as it underwent a $27.25 million renovation to make the interior safer and more accessible should a rescue effort be needed.
EP Henry manufactured more than 50,000 sq. ft. of their Brick Stone concrete pavers for Statue of Liberty walkway.
Super Storm Sandy
In October of 2012 The Statue of Liberty faced Super Storm Sandy. With surges that reached as much as 12.5 feet above normal in many parts of New York and New Jersey, cities were inundated by water. Although the statue itself held up to the storm, the brick walkways that surround it didn’t fare as well. EP Henry manufactured more than 50,000 sq. ft. of their Brick Stone concrete pavers for the Statue of Liberty walkways. As an American company with more than 100 years of history and New Jersey roots, they understood the impact that Sandy had on our region and were honored to have the opportunity to be involved with the restoration of such an important and iconic landmark. Repairing the brick walkways with pavers was only a small part of the $59 billion restoration project which also included repairs to the base of the Statue of Liberty which was damaged during Super Storm Sandy, and replacing the back-up generators and power systems for the island.
For Future Generations to Enjoy
There is no doubt that The Statue of Liberty will require future renovations and repairs, and there is also no doubt that this Lady Liberty will continue to influence, inspire, and give hope to many more generations to come.