Repair and renovation of the Statue of Liberty

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Repair and renovation of the Statue of Liberty


If there is indeed a constant in the history of the statue of liberty, it is the relentlessness it took the officials not to maintain it. This monument that seems so important to us today has not always been, and if you can find reasons for its abandonment in the early years is more difficult to accept that Miss Liberty have not received the necessary repairs in due time thereafter. In fact the statue received only two major renovations: In 1936, before the ceremony of the fiftieth anniversary, and in 1986 for its centennial. In between, there were only a few improvements that could be described as "cosmetic".


1886-1937: The first years

The reasons for abandonment

Pick up the thread of history in 1886. The Statue of Liberty has just been inaugurated, the Americans are in the euphoria of the performance it provides. But she had not been selected by the US, it was a gift from France to the United States. Now this gift stopped at her building, even the base was dependent Americans. As for maintenance, we do not even speak. But once in place, it was necessary that someone decides to maintain it, the risk of its collapse. Who was to make it so?

The land on which it was built, Bedloe the island was a military area, so it seemed normal that will be the army that supports the maintenance work. But the statue was also a practical function, the torch was a real highlight - very effective - but as such it was given to the National Service of lights, which had to bear the load. And to top it all, the US committee that was responsible for raising funds for the construction of the pedestal, the committee that served as interlocutor to the French, was in charge took the island tours, it operated ferries that linked Manhattan Bedloe's island. Three very different organisms from one another, three bodies do not have the same goals: It was enough for none of the three takes the responsibility for the work.


The fight of Pulitzer

It is still goingonce Joseph Pulitzer, newspaper editor "World", who asked through her articles that Bedloe island becomes a kind of sanctuary. He had to put pressure on political opinion for the temporary holding center for immigrants in the US is not built on that island but a little further, it will be the case since it left Earth on Ellis Island, 750m further north. Pulitzer's idea was to develop the island into a place of rest, walk. But the United States, the main problem is that we spend very little public money for such things, especially at the time. Political refused to provide a framework for the development of the island, especially the statue was still charged for some years as a symbol of freedom of migrants, the latter again frowned upon in the United States, much like each wave of immigration in a country. The Americans therefore do not see a very good eye development of this statue which was imposed on them and they certainly would not have had the idea of ​​building them.

Only in the early twentieth century that, having held the first repair. The reports became alarming, the statue was threatening to collapse. The interior of the statue was repainted and the base received a new layer of granite. Other arrangements were made with the construction of a new wharf for example. These renovations were financed by public funds, the amount was insignificant, but even when allowed to do some work. Moreover it is at this time that the first elevator was installed in the building, a very modern for its time element.

Other repairs had to be made during the First World War, following the explosion of the ammunition depot of Jersey City on July 30, 1916. One hundred rivets had dropped, plates were moved. The windows of the crown were shattered, too. All these repairs cost 100,000 dollars, a substantial sum for the time.


The flagship of the Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty holds a torch in her left hand, in the spirit of Auguste Bartholdi, it must be real, ie illuminate to direct the boats to the port of New York. The problem was that the light it produced was very low, it was attenuated by the copper plates, and all she could do was continually attract a flock of birds which ultimately differentiate the statue. Finally it had to change, and it's even Joseph Pulitzer who proposed a deal with the Congress in 1915: He undertook to find $ 30,000 to her readers if Congress also put $ 30,000. With the two sums it was enough to replace the torch by a real powerful headlight and even illuminate the statue itself. This was done and thanks to a new fundraising readers of "World", the statue served as a true beacon in 1916. It seems that the ceremony was amazing.

Unfortunately the difficult environment of the statue did not play in her favor, and in 1920 it became necessary to finance new lighting repair work, become largely ineffective.


The first real work


Repair work in 1938

Repair work in 1938

It took until 1936 qu'interviennent the first real work on the Statue of Liberty since its erection. At that time immigration was increasingly seen as a handicap because it was significantly reduced, the Americans do not saw it as a symbol of the European invading masses from the new continent - as was previously the case - but a symbol of the greatness of the United States. It was necessary to maintain it as not to correspond to lose some luster with this people so proud prides itself. Moreover the administration of the time, under the Roosevelt government was more willing than earlier to deliver - a little - the public financial windfall to renovate a statue they considered private law. Spans works were therefore launched.

First the island was converted. You should know that until 1937 Bedloe's island was a military land on which was built a particularly sad set of more or less tourist buildings. The visiting conditions were deplorable, few people were willing to come to the foot of the statue. In 1937 the island was sold to the National Park Service, which had recently received the US monuments. Between 1937 and 1941 it is nearly 1 and a half million dollars that were engulfed in the construction of a dike around the island, destroying unhealthy buildings, construction of a new dock, and especially in the replacement large parts of the iron structure of Gustave Eiffel, who had rusted girders lack of regular maintenance. In the basement elevator threatened to stop working, the staircase, which was cast had many unsealedsteps and seal the base of the roof was redone. All these works were financed by the effort of the New Deal, a generic term which brought many jobs to a population threatened by unemployment, all on the public purse.

All these works lasted from 1937 to 1941 and resumed after World War II, in 1945. They continued for some time and were halted for lack of funding, but the bulk of the work still needed to do a job nobody ' had really considered so far: It was completely redo the iron structure of Eiffel, from A to Z. It was simply not done.


1884-1886: The renovation of the Centenary

Again abandoned, the Statue of Liberty again lost its luster. If visitors became more and more numerous, the reception conditions have again deteriorated rapidly. The postwar years were not magnified the statue is the least we can say.

By cons, 1986 came apace, the year of the centenary of the statue would naturally be a big party, but how to celebrate with a statue of Liberty was not really renovated in 100 years? The renovation was carried preemptively request by an association of several personalities, French and American citizens, all working in the field of sculpture, architecture, technical engineers, workers specialize in copper work, etc. These people made capable of quite alarming picture of the situation and asked for Miss Liberty emergency work.

The first problem was Reccurent: It was necessary to deal with the fundraiser. if for the French it sounds surprising, because such work would in France, financed by the State, for US it is quite otherwise: These resources can not come from public donations, it must necessarily involve private to finance the works. And that's what will be done for a few years during which the Americans will be encouraged to give, even small amounts, for the renovation of the Statue of Liberty. Those responsible for the fundraiser also distributed many commercial licenses, which made say to the detractors of the method that the statue had not become a giant advertisement for a lot of different products. But the facts were there: The fundraiser was enough to do the work, rehabilitate Liberty island and even finance the reconstruction of Ellis Island and Immigration Museum.


the works

Soon the French were removed from the project: They did not have the same conception of work than their counterparts. They were more in the artistic work, the need to accurately reproduce the original statue when Americans were more pragmatic, not hesitating to sacrifice a - small - part of the aesthetic to streamline the technical work. Given that funding 100% Americans they profited to permanently oust the French.

The work focused on a number of points. The most important were undoubtedly the renovation of the internal structure of Eiffel , forged iron girders being corroded. All beams were replaced one by one by other stainless steel, more resistant. The old staircase that was beginning to collapse - it was not designed to accommodate the public - was replaced by two others, modern, one for the ascent and another for descent. More problematic, it was also necessary to change the grip mechanisms copper plates with iron girders. These mechanisms were U-shaped iron rods from a side attached to the beams, on the other a copper hook riveted to the plate. This U-shaped allowing a slight flexibility of the statue which can oscillate in the strong winds it undergoes. But it is also a problem because the copper in contact with iron, if there is a catalyst such as sea air, causing arcing which were avoided by the addition of small asbestos sheet. Now, in 1986, asbestos was already considered in the US as a powerful carcinogen. It was therefore necessary to work in difficult conditions to remove the leaves and replace them with less dangerous mechanisms.

Work is also carried on the exterior shell of the statue. The green patina that she had taken were not uniform. The statue was heavily stained on the north part because of smoke, air pollutants and moisture. It was clean but carefully because it should not damage the color, which would put years to recover. Speaking of color, many rivets had to be changed, they had become too brittle, or they simply disappeared. Again they were replaced with new rivets, but pre-oxidized, so that the natural orange copper color of these rivets is only seen on the exterior shell of the statue, which would have given him the impression of having small red spots ...

The interior of the statue is probably the part that has most been worked. When built Auguste Bartholdi to covered inside a thick layer of tar, to prevent it from oxidizing. One hundred years later, the layer was largely chipped, but where it stood, it was very difficult to remove. The workers used a product which, in contact with the sea air, turned to blue liquid, which would not have been a problem if the liquid had not cast between the edges of the copper plates, did appear outside. These large blue spots had to be washed too, but with a special product not like the statue. Any technical ...

Then came the problem of the torch. The original torch was made of a wire mesh filled with glass plates. It was originally to be enlightened, but this was done so effectively in 1936. But over time the weather had blown a lot of tiles, water gets inside the arm and then down into the statue, it was essential to replace the torch itself. The choice was made to redo it differently. This is also a French team who made it, pushed copper specialists as Bartholdi, who assumed construction from A to Z, including the gilding. Gone, this new torch resembled the old in form but it was totally different design. A copy of this flashlight is also in Paris, above the Pont de l'Alma.

Another question remained unanswered: What to do with the incorrect tilting the outstretched arm of the statue? For it was well known, there is a failure in communication between the sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, the designer and the internal structure of Gustave Eiffel. The plans of the statue evolved without being aware that Eiffel, which made the statue was supposed to have her arm closer to the head of 60cm, the internal structure being cantilever for 100 years. Were the engineers shift the arm to make the statue to what it was originally intended or should they rectify the internal structure? It is this latter choice that was made, not to change the shape of the statue. And even if it was more difficult, it was also logical.

Finally, the work focused on access to the statue, which had originally been planned to accommodate the public. Fort Wood was arranged to provide visitors with a better management of their visits, the island was redeveloped, a new dock was built, but the main work took place in the base of the statue. The old wooden staircase was dismantled and replaced by a wide staircase, the elevator was replaced, and the top of the pedestal was replaced by a glass ceiling to allow the view of the inside of the statue to see its structure internal. It is from here that the staircase leading to the crown. Finally the balconies were redeveloped to allow better circulation of tourists.

All these works were the first real facts about the Statue of Liberty in 100 years. The statue, a gift from France to the United States, had never really been taken over by the Americans to this day. And it must be said that the day of the ceremony of the centenary Miss Liberty had regained its former glory.


See also: History of the statue of Liberty




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