Friday, October 28, 2011

many happy returns

Did you know the ClockTower and the Statue of Liberty are near-exact contemporaries? It’s true, in fact they are almost twins: built and opened in the very same year, 1886.
Her cornerstone was laid in 1884, but she was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland exactly 125 years ago today, October 28th, 1886. Today is her 125th birthday.

A rainy-day boatride took me for a visit a few weeks back because she’s being closed for interior renovations starting tomorrow.

After landing on Liberty Island the approach is from behind.

We all know she was a gift from France. 

Did you also know that her interior framework was designed by Alexander-Gustave Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower guy? The French paid for the statue while we American’s raised money to build her neo-classic granite pedestal.

She was almost painted in the early 1900’s. Her coppery color had given way to the verdigris green that covered her entirely by 1906. The Army Corp of Engineers did a study and concluded the patina actually protects the copper from further corrosion and "softened the outlines of the Statue and made it beautiful."

So they just painted the inside. 
We were able to climb to the top of the pedestal. Rainwater picks up the verdigris and stains the pink granite.

The copper work is cool. French artisans hammered it into handmade wooden forms to shape it, then packed and shipped the skin in 350 large individual pieces for assembly in America.

Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of Central Park, supervised a cleanup of the island to prepare for her assembly. She was an immediate success.

Then in 1916, the same guy who sculpted Mount Rushmore also redesigned the torch replacing the copper with glass so it could be internally lit. But that torch leaked so it was replaced again during the 1984 restoration. The glass torch is now on display inside the pedestal.

The 1984 renovation addressed a lot of problems. 
Eiffel’s underlying cast iron armature corroded in the New York harbor salt air so it was replaced piece by piece with stainless steel. Her copper skin is thicker than a penny but that was also corroding and needed repair. 

This is a full scale replica of her face displayed inside the pedestal.

Holes in her skin were repaired with copper taken from a copper rooftop at Bell Labs in New Jersey, which had a patina the same color as the statue's.

She reopened July 3–6, 1986.
Glass panels were installed into the pedestal’s ceiling so you can look up inside the statue.

At 305 feet including her pedestal, she’s roughly the same height as a typical UpperEastSide residential highrise.

Except at the end of Planet of the Apes, when she’s half buried in the sand.
She’s due to reopen in about a year. When you go out to see her, say Hi for me. 

Happy Birthday, Lady Liberty. 

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