Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Few things symbolize anything as completely as the one hundred and fifty-one foot statue symbolizes her namesake. A gift from France to commemorate the centennial of the United States of America, the Statue of Liberty has stood since 1886 as a steady welcome to anyone visiting for the first time, anyone returning for the umpteenth time, and perhaps above all, anyone staying for all time.

She’s French, sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. Her internal structure was engineered by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (for whom his greatest creation, the Eiffel Tower, is named). The copper and the “Repousse” technique used to fashion it were chosen by Eugene Viollet-de-Duc. Heck, her given name is “Liberte Eclairant le Monde” (Liberty Enlightening the World). But she couldn’t possibly be more American.

The iconography of Lady Liberty has been represented throughout popular culture with a certain timelessness. One of the founding teams in the Women’s National Basketball Association, for example, was the New York Liberty, inspired by and named not only after the statue’s iconic symbolism, but gender as well. That is but one of many examples.

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1942 thriller Saboteur, Danny Cannon’s 1995 action film Judge Dredd, and Bryan Singer’s 2000 adaptation of X-Men all feature a climactic battle on top of the statue. In Ghostbusters II, the heroes used specialized slime to bring the statue to life in order to generate enough goodwill throughout the city to do away with the villain.

Perhaps the most infamous cinematic representation of Lady Liberty comes at the end of Planet of the Apes (1968) when the protagonist George Taylor (Charlton Heston) discovers the remains of the statue and realizes that mankind destroyed itself through warfare. This depiction was actually quite popular in a number of science fiction works throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and has become one of the dominant characteristics of the genre in representing the subjugation or destruction of America.

For a tourist visiting the statue, an obstacle course lies between the shores of New York City and the view from the top of the crown. A Ferry service transports crowds from Manhattan to Liberty Island, where a Liberty Island museum atop a ten-story climb up the pedestal leads visitors to … more stairs. After an arduous (and somewhat claustrophobic) trek up the tiny winding staircase, a unique and unforgettable glimpse out on the majesty of the New York skyline awaits the widened eyes (and tired feet) of successful climbers.

After September 11, 2001, the interior of the statue was closed to the public, much to the dismay of tourists. The Pedestal re-opened in 2004, but it would take another five years before visitors could once again enter the statue (now, only a limited number are allowed to climb each day). The Statue also closed as a result of damage inflicted on the structure by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but has since re-opened (as of this writing), allowing visitors old and new to once again get intimate with Lady Liberty.

Some 3.2 million tourists made a visit to the statue in 2009 alone, which is the only way to truly grasp the enormity of this endeavor. There is no fee for visiting either the grounds or the attached museum, only a few bucks for the ferry service. Granted, if you want to head to the top of the statue, you’ll have to pay an additional three bucks and make reservations well in advance. Still, it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to cozy up to this beloved symbol.

And, whether up-close or from a distance, whether in pictures or right in front of your face, in many ways the statue goes far beyond symbolizing liberty. She is Liberty. And for a woman over a hundred and thirty years old, she’s never looked better.

Have you ever had the privilege of visiting the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor? We would love to hear all of the memories of your experience in our comments section below.

2 Responses to “Statue of Liberty”

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  1. Gina says:

    At Epcot’s American Adventure, at the end, Ben Franklin & Mark Twain stand in front of Liberty’s torch. Universal Studios used to have a recreation of part of the Statue in their Alfred Hitchcock attraction, and the scene of a man falling from the Statue would be recreated many times a day. Islands of Adventure’s Spider-Man attraction has a plot where the villains take Liberty apart, and you and Spider-Man have to stop them so the Statue can be put back together again.

  2. John says:

    The Statue of Liberty is the coolest gift that another country gave us. The French were inspired by the great experiment that became the United States and have been our oldest allies since the 18th century. I have never been to Liberty Island, but the Statue of Liberty must be quite a sight in person. There is not another statue in the world like it.

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