Greeting immigrants to America for 125 years

Lady Liberty has been looking over New York Harbor for almost 125 years. BY RON MACARTHUR
September 23, 2011

If you want to visit the interior of the Statue of Liberty over the next two years, you better act quickly. The statue is scheduled to be closed starting Oct. 29 for about a year for safety and security upgrades. The $26 million renovation will include the addition of elevators, fireproof staircases and additional exits. Currently, for safety reasons only 10 visitors at a time are allowed to make the trip up the winding staircase to the crown. Tickets for October were sold out four months ago. However, a limited number of visitors can get reserved tickets to walk up to the pedestal.

Liberty Island will remain open throughout the project with national park rangers on hand to conduct tours. The only access to Liberty Island is via ferry from Battery Park, N.Y., or Liberty State Park, N.J. Advance reservations are required; go to or for more information. Many people combine a visit to Liberty Island with a visit to Ellis Island. Ongoing ferry service is available between the islands, which are both part of the national park system.

The iconic symbol of freedom and democracy that has greeted millions of immigrants to America was a gift from the people of France 125 years ago in recognition of a friendship established during the American Revolution.

French artist Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, who was known for large-scale work, was commissioned to design this sculpture. In 1871 Bartholdi came to the United States to look for a location for his monument. He saw Bedloe's Island – later changed to Liberty Island – from his ship as he sailed into the New York Harbor, and realized it would be a perfect location. French engineer Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was called on to build a skeleton for the statue.

Since the statue was a joint effort between America and France, it was agreed that the American people were to build the pedestal, and the French people were responsible for the statue and assembly. American newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer stepped in and was able to raise money for the pedestal using his newspaper "The World."

The statue was completed in France in July 1884, disassembled and shipped to the United States, arriving in New York in June 1885. Once the pedestal was finished, the statue was reassembled in four months. On Oct. 28, 1886, the dedication of the Statue of Liberty took place in front of thousands of spectators.

After Sept. 11. 2001, Liberty Island was closed for 100 days, and the statue remained closed until Aug. 3, 2004. The crown was not reopened until July 4, 2009.

Access to the torch has been closed since 1916 even with the addition of a new torch in 1984.

  • Ron MacArthur has lived and worked in Sussex County all his life. As a journalist for more than 40 years, he has covered everything from county and town meetings to presidential visits. He also has a unique perspective having served as an elected official and lived on both sides of the county.

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