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Tourist Destinations of the United States: Statue of Liberty National Monument

Updated on January 6, 2015

Statue of Liberty National Monument

The Statue of Liberty National Monument encompasses both the statue as well as the historic Immigration Station located on Liberty Island and Ellis Island in New York Harbor. The statue was completed on October 28, 1886. The statue depicts Lady Liberty holding a torch high above her head while a broken chain lies at her feet. She represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. In 1965, the Ellis Island immigration station was absorbed into the Statue of Liberty National Monument. Between the years of 1892 and 1954 this was the largest gateway for immigrants into the US. As such, it was the largest inspection station during this period. The structure seen today was built in 1900; it was done so in a style known as Renaissance Revival. The entire national monument is the ideal place to visit for anyone interested in American immigration history. These iconic symbols of America’s past together receive approximately three and half million guests annually.

Statue of Liberty, New York

The History and Architecture of the Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty, standing at 305 feet from ground to torch was shipped piecemeal in crates from France. It was designed to be placed on its base that was already constructed. However, a series of funding difficulties caused many delays to erecting the statue. During this time many of the statue’s various pieces were put on display. For example, the arm holding the torch was shown at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. Later, this portion of the statue was displayed in New York’s Madison Square Park from 1876-82. The French government ceased shipment of the statue’s many crates until they were assured that enough funding existed on the American side to erect the monument. During this time, the United States was only 20 years separated from its Civil War. As such, the country’s economy was suffering. Private donation efforts led by the famous publisher Joseph Pulitzer attracted more than 120,000 contributors. Once the statue was erected, the city of New York celebrated its completion by holding its first ever ticker-tape parade. From its completion until 1901, the Statue of Liberty fell under the jurisdiction of the United States Lighthouse Board (no longer in existence). From that year until 1933 the statue was administered by the US Department of War (also no longer in existence). Since 1933, the statue has been maintained and administered by the National Park Service. Frederic Bartholdi, the statue’s designer created the monument with the idea of best expressing the concept of American liberty.

Libertas, or Lady Liberty was not choosing immediately. Bartholdi initially considered one other commonly used female figure of American history, Columbia. All of Bartholdi’s earliest designs depicted a woman wearing loose robes. However, the idea of the torch was not thought of until a previous version showing Lady Liberty holding a broken chain was scrapped. It was determined that the broken chain would come to symbolize the division created by the then recently concluded American Civil war. Although Bartholdi never publicly admitted to it, many believe the statue was modeled after his mother, Charlotte. The two women do indeed look similar. The height of the statue has never changed from its original size of 151 feet (not counting the pedestal it sits atop). Moreover, renovation efforts done during 1938 and 1984-1986 were performed while keeping with the statue’s original construction. For example, the copper sheeting that makes up Libertas’ skin has always been of the same thickness, about one inch. The only notable change the statue has been subjected to is its torch area. While the torch has been replaced with parts of matching specifications, the balcony around the torch has been off limits to the public since 1916 for safety reasons following a series of near fatal accidents.

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

The History and Architecture of the Ellis Island Immigration Inspection Station Museum

Ellis Island is approximately 1 5/8 miles from Liberty Island. Here is where one will find the historic immigration station. During the 35 years prior to the creation of the station, a total of eight million immigrants arrived to the area. This in turn created the need for such a processing station. This structure, completed on January 1, 1892 was a wooden structure built atop manmade land. This artificial land was constructed primarily of landfill extracted during the making of New York’s vast subway system. This enormous structure built from pine wood shipped in from Georgia stood three stories in height. During its first year of operation, the station processed roughly 450,000 immigrants; 700 of these people were processed during the station’s first day of existence. On June 15, 1897 the immigration station was burned completely to the ground by a fire of unknown origin. Thankfully, no loss of life was reported. However, a large portion of irreplaceable immigration records dating back to 1855 were lost or destroyed. Throughout the original station’s five years of operation, about 1.5 million immigrants were processed. Plans for constructing a new facility were quickly put into action and the new facility, containing all the modern amenities that were considered necessary at the time was opened on December 17, 1900. The structure was outfitted with a modern kitchen, laundry room, powerhouse, and hospital. It should be noted that while the new station was equipped nicely, it was too small to handle the massive influx of people. It was said to have been easily capable of handling 5,000 immigrants daily. The designers’ prediction of 5,000 immigrants was indeed accurate. However, the station was just barely able to process them all. Many people were relegated to sleeping on benches or on the floor of the main station. From its opening in 1900 until its closing in 1954, the Ellis Island immigration station was constantly expanded upon which helped ease the confusion associated with handling so many people. By the time the processing center closed its doors in 1954, it admitted approximately 12 million immigrants into the US.

The Ellis Island Immigration Museum

A Brief Look at the Immigration Screening Process

Contrary to popular belief, some immigrants were not permitted into the country. They were asked a series of 29 questions which asked about name, occupation, literacy, and the amount of money they were carrying. The government wanted immigrants to each possess somewhere between 18 and 25 dollars. Those who were too poor, sick, or elderly were held in the island’s hospital, often for long periods of time before being processed and sent back to their home countries. However, the lion’s share of immigrants was granted admission and citizenship; only two percent of all potential immigrants were denied and sent back to their respective homelands. Reasons for being sent back varied from having a contagious illness, a criminal background, or by being deemed insane. Today much of the structure has fallen into disrepair and is not open to the public during reconstruction efforts being performed by the Save Ellis Island campaign. Guests prior to visiting should check which portions of the historical site are available for viewing.

Ellis Island

Things to Know Before Visiting the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island

Both Liberty Island and Ellis Island are open every day with the only exception being Christmas. Tickets can be purchased on location. However, it is recommended to order them ahead of time either via phone or the internet as they tend to sell out quickly. Tickets for children under the age of four are free of charge. Children ranging in age 4-12 are charged $5. Adults (13+) pay $13. Seniors over the age of 61 are required to pay a $10 fee. These ticket prices include the ferry ride needed to reach the islands. There is no charge for actually entering the Statue of Liberty or the Ellis Island Immigration Station. The ferry is the only way to gain access to the sites as private boats are outlawed from docking at the location. The ferry service is provided by a company known as Statue Cruises. The ferries run from the mainland every half hour starting at 8:30am and ending at 3:30pm. At this time, Ellis Island closes for the day. Liberty Island, the home to the Statue of Liberty closes at 4:45pm; the last ferry departs from Liberty Island at 5pm. Those visiting the islands should be made aware that from April 16th until May 25th, the first ferry will not depart from the mainland until 9am. Guests should also note that wait times for the ferry can be up to 90 minutes in duration. Moreover, there is a brief screening process for the purpose of security.

Original Torch of Statue of Liberty


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