You are here

How Would YOU Fix the Statue of Liberty?

Liberty's Spiral Staircase; 'Blondie5000' photo via Flickr

The artist's touch is evident on this spiral, double helix staircase located on the interior of the Statue of Liberty; 'Blondie5000' photo via Flickr

Let's hear your thoughts. How would you fix the Statue of Liberty so that visiting her crown can once again be a reality?

Some background: earlier this week, Congress asked the National Park Service what it would take to restore public access to the top the Statue of Liberty. Visiting the crown had been a tradition at the Statue for many years. It had always been a difficult process; it had always been hot, muggy, and stinky experience; it had always taken a long time to climb, and then provided only a brief look out the window before having to move along; and, access had always been somewhat limited. In the years before September 11, only the first two boat loads of people had the opportunity to climb to the top.

When the terrorist attacks happened, many monuments were shut down because of a perceived threat. Because full access to the Statue of Liberty has not been restored since that day in 2001, the perception is that it is for fear of another attack. New York representative Weiner has even claimed, that if true, the terrorists "have won". The Park Service response has been that the Statue remains closed because of health and safety code issues present within the structure.

OK, so how do we fix this? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Some points that you may want to include in the discussion -

1) Should access be restored? If risk is involved, is it worth the chance that someone will get hurt or killed in an accident while climbing to the top? Just because it had been done for years and years prior, is that justification for restoring access now?

2) Can we compare the risk involved while climbing Lady Liberty (a man-made structure) with the risk involved climbing Yosemite's Half Dome (man-made cables assist hikers up a steep pitch, a pitch that has taken the lives of visitors)? If we accept the risk at Half Dome, can we apply that risk to the Statue?

3) Should we alter the Statue of Liberty to make it conform to safety codes? The Park Service says to meet code, they would have to cut into the statue and provide emergency access for escape or rescue.

4) Should we alter the Statue to provide easier access to the top? Can we add a bigger stairway, or perhaps an elevator in place of the original staircase?

5) Should we allow very limited access to the top, say no more than 50 people a day? Perhaps we could create a daily lottery in which the winners are awarded the opportunity to access Liberty's crown.

My Thoughts:
I contacted the National Park Service to ask if an elevator had been suggested as a solution. The reply was one I had never considered before, an answer I wish I had heard Deputy Director Wenk provide to Congress the other day. Spokesperson David Barna said,

Keep in mind that the Statue is a piece of art. Tearing out the spiral, double helix staircase designed by Bartholdi would run counter to NPS' mission of "preserving unimpaired" the historic fabric of the Statue of Liberty.

I had been trying to solve this problem as an engineer, viewing the structure as a historic building, when in fact, it really is a giant piece of art! The attached photo of the spiral staircase reveals the artists touch in something as simple as a staircase. He could have put in something very industrial, considering it is hidden beneath Liberty's shell, but he didn't, and that really needs to be considered. So, in my opinion, altering the Statue is out.

My solution would be to provide limited access to the top. If risk is involved, it does need to be put in perspective, and I think it is fair to compare it with other risk we accept around the national park system. I accept that if I have a heart attack at 10,000 feet on Mt Rainier, any rescue attempt may take awhile. It is the nature of the mountain that I'll be left vulnerable for some time. It seems fair to me, that climbers of the Statue of Liberty should recognize the risk; if something "bad" were to happen to them while they were in the Statue, every effort would be made to help them, but it is the nature of climbing the interior of a giant statue that rescue may take longer than normal. Probably for most people, the risk would be worth the reward of Liberty's crown.

How should access be limited? Is there a "fair" way? I'd say provide some type of free lottery. Every day something like 50 people, or 10 groups of 10, or some other type of limited grouping, would have the opportunity to be selected in a computer controlled lottery system. But provide grouping, so that couples, or families, or other arbitrary groups that visit the Statue of Liberty together, would have the opportunity to share the view from the crown together.

What are YOUR thought?


Yes, Bandelier has ladders available for folks to climb, to get a good look at the dwellings carved into the cliff face (cavelets I think they are called). To get to these ladders requires visitors take a somewhat steep and narrow path that includes many stairs. I don't really see how wheelchairs and strollers would manage it, and I'd think that crutches and canes would have a difficult time too. The trail isn't so steep or so narrow that overweight folks or those with heart conditions would have much trouble. Of course, it would be left to their judgment whether or not to attempt the ladders (which are bolted to the walls, so they don't really move). Most ladders are fairly short, nothing more than 10 feet tall that I can recall, although, there is a more remote location which may have taller ladders. Flickr has confirmed for me that at the more remote location, there is a warning sign.

The sign reads, "a 140 Ft. vertical ascent. Those with health problems or fear of heights should not attempt the climb. Close supervision of children is required. CLIMB ON LADDERS ONLY."

I think Bandelier also has a bunch of ladders throughout the park that visitors are allowed to climb. Is anyone out there familiar with that park and how that gets handled?

While 268 steps is not MY idea of a strenuous endeavor, I get the point. But I totally disagree with the "can't tell 'em they're too fat" notion............just try and get your two-seater butt on a mule into the Grand Canyon. I'll attest to 200 lbs. not being a conventional guideline for obesity, but that's the limit for Arizona mules. And some I've seen rejected were not the poster children for the Mega-sized Meals Club President, just larger folks somewhat disadvantaged with their slightly larger than normal physique. Maybe a sign could be posted at the base of the Crown Jewel of New York Harbor to the effect that the stairs are deteriorating faster than a Minnesota interstate bridge, and weight limits are being enforced, akin to load limits on city streets........

Having worked at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (America's tallest lighthouse) which is opened for climbing, I've been down this road before. It's a historic structure which was not designed for thousands of people stomping up and down on the historic structure every day and its 268 steps. We would warn people of the dangers, limit the number of people climbing at a single time (and limit each day), discourage those with heath problems, and set a height minimum for safety reasons and yet the visitors still climb. For the most part they climb happy, take their pictures, and go away. No matter how hard you warn though, today's society tends to be overweight, arrogant, and unhealthy. There will be a segment of the population that will not get it. The weekly, sometimes daily, sometimes 5 times in one day, rescues were not healthy people, but overweight people or others suffering from chronic medical conditions. Unfortunatly, we can't stop people and say sorry you're too fat, or if you have a heart problem you can't climb. When we had to treat and rescue people we had to shut down the tower and folks on either side of the rescue had to wait. No matter what plan is developed for the Statue, there will always be someone who needs to be rescued, someone who complains because tickets are sold out, or upset over something.

Hi Nancy...
In fact, I think the model for the historic lantern tour at Jewel Cave would work well here. Reservations a must. Sign on the dotted line. Narrow passages and steep climbs, claustrophobics -- you've been warned. Kids must be able to walk it all on their own (no carried kids).


I am very fortunate to have made the climb to the top- twice- once before she was refurbished and I think I still have a jacket with the rust stains to prove it! and again, once she was refurbished. I have also visited every one of the 391 park units in the US park system, so I draw on some experience. The statue is history, art and a symbol. She should not be defaced or deformed in order to accomodate "new" one size fits all ideas. She does not fit all and not everyone will be able to climb the arduous climb, and not everyone will be fortunate enough to be accepted for the climb and not everyone will want the claustrophobic experience with the lack of safety factors considered. I think she should be open to those who want the experience, but limited to the numbers per day the park service feels can safely do it. I also feel that persons who have health problems, or are too young ( probably under 12) should not be allowed to attempt this. I think the park service should be able to come up with a release of liability for anyone who does attempt this. That should cover the slowness to evacuate in times of crisis or problems. I think a simple reservation system should work- those who really want the experience can plan way ahead in order to find an open slot. They would have to sign the appropriate release form. They already have to plan ahead for ferry tickets or brave a very long line. They already have to clear security screening and they already have to check all bags, purses, backpacks, etc before just attaining the pedestal. What does one more thing they would have to do in order to experience this represent? Nothing. Before you jump at me for discrimating against children, let me point out they can experience all the wonder of the statue from the pedestal level to which they can now go. To go to the crown simply provides a more sublime experience (which is totally lost on young children ) and a little better view than the lower one- Older children might be able to much more appreciate the experience. This is not designed for families because it is arduous and stuffy and tight quarters in which you couldn't carry a child unable to climb it on their own. It is now and should remain one of those inaccesssilbe places. Again, I point out that the experience of visiting the lady can be now done to the pedestal level via elevator. To deface a work of art to comply to accessible rules would be a shame- I would rather she remain off limits to everyone.
And before I hear from the disabled, let me point out that due to a badly broken foot, I have now joined your ranks and would not be a candidate for the climb if she would be again opened to public visitation to the crown.. As to groups, the number of visitations per day would be too small to accomodate groups other than small families- remember not all your children can / should be doing this!

I think it is still under, take it down, send it back to France for the fix

Yes, we are the best "dam" country. So many dams on our rivers...

On a related note to the story, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The statue isn't the problem; the problem is too many visitors.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments