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Statue of Liberty Pedestal - New York City, NY, USA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Marine Biologist
N 40° 41.343 W 074° 02.642
18T E 580775 N 4504678
Quick Description: The Statue of Liberty pedestal was designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt, who received the gold medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1893. The pedestal's construction has quite a colorful history.
Location: New York, United States
Date Posted: 5/27/2011 4:18:36 AM
Waymark Code: WMBJKW
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member razalas
Views: 65

Long Description:
"The committees in the United States faced great difficulties in obtaining funds. The Panic of 1873 had led to an economic depression that persisted through much of the decade. The Liberty statue project was not the only such undertaking that had difficulty raising money: construction of the obelisk later known as the Washington Monument sometimes stalled for years; it would ultimately take over three-and-a-half decades to complete. There was criticism both of Bartholdi's statue and of the fact that the gift required Americans to foot the bill for the pedestal. In the years following the Civil War, most Americans preferred realistic artworks depicting heroes and events from the nation's history, rather than allegorical works like the Liberty statue. There was also a feeling that Americans should design American public works—the selection of Italian-born Constantino Brumidi to decorate the Capitol had provoked intense criticism, even though he was a naturalized U.S. citizen. Harper's Weekly declared its wish that "M. Bartholdi and our French cousins had 'gone the whole figure' while they were about it, and given us statue and pedestal at once." The New York Times stated that "no true patriot can countenance any such expenditures for bronze females in the present state of our finances." Faced with these criticisms, the American committees took little action for several years.

The foundation of Bartholdi's statue was to be laid inside Fort Wood, a disused army base on Bedloe's Island constructed between 1807 and 1811. Since 1823, it had rarely been used, though during the Civil War, it had served as a recruiting station. The fortifications of the structure were in the shape of an eleven-point star. The statue's foundation and pedestal were aligned so that it would face southeast, greeting ships entering the harbor from the Atlantic Ocean. In 1881, the New York committee commissioned Richard Morris Hunt to design the pedestal. Within months, Hunt submitted a detailed plan, indicating that he expected construction to take about nine months. He proposed a pedestal 114 feet (35 m) feet in height; faced with money problems, the committee reduced that to 89 feet (27 m).

Hunt's pedestal design contains elements of classical architecture, including Doric portals, and the large mass is fragmented with architectural detail to focus attention on the statue. In form, it is a truncated pyramid, 62 feet (19 m) square at the base and 39.4 feet (12.0 m) at the top. The four sides are identical in appearance. Above the door on each side, there are ten disks upon which Bartholdi proposed to place the coats of arms of the states (between 1876 and 1889, there were 40 U.S. states), although this was not done. Above that, a balcony was placed on each side, framed by pillars. Bartholdi placed an observation platform near the top of the pedestal, above which the statue itself rises. According to author Louis Auchincloss, the pedestal "craggily evokes the power of an ancient Europe over which rises the dominating figure of the Statue of Liberty". The committee hired former army General Charles Pomeroy Stone to oversee the construction work. Construction on the 15-foot (4.6 m) deep foundation began in 1883, and the pedestal's cornerstone was laid in 1884. In Hunt's original conception, the pedestal was to have been made of solid granite. Financial concerns again forced him to revise his plans; the final design called for poured concrete walls, up to 20 feet (6.1 m) thick, faced with granite blocks. The concrete mass was the largest poured to that time.

Fundraising for the statue had begun in 1882. The committee organized a large number of money-raising events. As part of one such effort, an auction of art and manuscripts, poet Emma Lazarus was asked to donate an original work. She initially declined, stating she could not write a poem about a statue. At the time, she was also involved in aiding refugees to New York who had fled anti-Semitic pogroms in eastern Europe. These refugees were forced to live in conditions that the wealthy Lazarus had never experienced. She saw a way to express her empathy for these refugees in terms of the statue. The resulting sonnet, "The New Colossus", including the iconic lines "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free", is uniquely identified with the Statue of Liberty and is inscribed on a plaque in the museum in the base. Richard Morris Hunt's pedestal under construction in June 1885

Even with these efforts, fundraising lagged. Grover Cleveland, the governor of New York, vetoed a bill to provide $50,000 for the statue project in 1884. An attempt the next year to have Congress provide $100,000, sufficient to complete the project, failed when Democratic representatives would not agree to the appropriation. The New York committee, with only $3,000 in the bank, suspended work on the pedestal. With the project in jeopardy, groups from other American cities, including Boston and Philadelphia, offered to pay the full cost of erecting the statue in return for relocating it. Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the World, a New York newspaper, announced a drive to raise $100,000 (the equivalent of $2.3 million today). Pulitzer pledged to print the name of every contributor, no matter how small the amount given. The drive captured the imagination of New Yorkers, especially when Pulitzer began publishing the notes he received from contributors. "A young girl alone in the world" donated "60 cents, the result of self denial." One donor gave "five cents as a poor office boy's mite toward the Pedestal Fund." A group of children sent a dollar as "the money we saved to go to the circus with." Another dollar was given by a "lonely and very aged woman." Residents of a home for alcoholics in New York's rival city of Brooklyn (the cities would not merge until 1898) donated $15; other drinkers helped out through donation boxes in bars and saloons. A kindergarten class in Davenport, Iowa, mailed the World a gift of $1.35.

As the donations flooded in, the committee resumed work on the pedestal. In June, New Yorkers displayed their new-found enthusiasm for the statue, as the French vessel Isère arrived with the crates holding the disassembled statue on board. Two hundred thousand people lined the docks and hundreds of boats put to sea to welcome the Isère. After five months of daily calls to donate to the statue fund, on August 11, 1885, the World announced that $102,000 had been raised from 120,000 donors, and that 80 percent of the total had been received in sums of less than one dollar.

Even with the success of the fund drive, the pedestal was not completed until April 1886. Immediately thereafter, reassembly of the statue began. Eiffel's iron framework was anchored to steel I-beams within the concrete pedestal and assembled. Once this was done, the sections of skin were carefully attached. Due to the width of the pedestal, it was not possible to erect scaffolding, and workers dangled from the armature by ropes while installing the skin sections. Nevertheless, no one died during the construction work. Bartholdi had planned to put floodlights on the torch's balcony to illuminate it; a week before the dedication, the Army Corps of Engineers vetoed the proposal, fearing that ships' pilots passing the statue would be blinded. Instead, Bartholdi cut portholes in the torch (which was covered with gold leaf) and placed the lights inside them. A power plant was installed on the island to light the torch and for other electrical needs. After the skin was completed, renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of New York's Central Park and Brooklyn's Prospect Park, supervised a cleanup of Bedloe's Island in anticipation of the dedication."

-- Source

Architect: Richard Morris Hunt

Prize received: RIBA Royal Gold Medal

In what year: 1893

Website about the Architect: [Web Link]

Website about the building: [Web Link]

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