Statue Of Liberty's 125th Birthday Feted, Then Lady Liberty Was Closed For Renovations
It was a birthday party that both brought to mind the long friendship between France and the United States as well as the greeting the Statue of Liberty has provided seemingly endless lines of immigrants who believed they could strike a new life in America.
Among the dignitaries who stood beneath Lady Liberty's torch-bearing arm were 125 immigrants from more than 40 countries who were naturalized as U.S. citizens on the day that the statue marked its 125th birthday.
"Lady Liberty is an enduring symbol of freedom, tolerance and openness that represents our country's highest ideals," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at Friday's celebration.
He was joined by noted singer and pianist Michael Feinstein, Academy-Award-nominated actress Sigourney Weaver, as well as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who told the crowd that the statue "remains an inspiration for people all around the world."
For those able to attend the ceremony there was a cake in the shape of Lady Liberty, frosted in green, of course. Mayor Bloomberg also donated to Park Service an original prototype of Statue of Liberty used as model to get financing for the pedestal.
A small flotilla of government, commercial, and private vessels offered a salute to the statue at the close of the ceremony, evoking the 1886 "water parade" that attended her dedication. Later Friday night an elaborate fireworks display lit up the statue and the harbor she rises over.
The iconic green lady, a gift from France to the United States, was dedicated on October 28, 1886, and designated as a national nonument in 1924. In the lead up to the statue's centennial in 1986, a team of French and American workers repaired and cleaned the green-patinaed statue. Among their tasks: cover the glass-and-metal torch in Lady Liberty's upraised right hand with gold leaf.
During Friday's ceremony, which was held in brisk temperatures under sunny skies, American and French national anthems were played and then Ms. Weaver read "The New Colossus," a poem by Emma Lazarus that is inscribed under the statue in bronze.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land:
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancien lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me
I lift my lamp beside the gold door!"
In conjunction with the celebration, a series of web cameras, including one in the statue's torch, was turned on to offer viewers, as long as weather allows, unobstructed views of the New York City skyline, the Hudson River, and ships in New York Harbor.
On Saturday, as an early season storm rolled in, the statue was shuttered to the public. During the course of the coming year crews will work on a $27.25 million renovation project that will update mechanical, electrical and fire suppression systems, replace the elevators, and rehabilitate restrooms. The improvements are expected to allow for increased visitor access to the monument, including the pedestal and the museum.
However, Liberty Island, where the copper statue is located, will remain open during the project, and views of Lady Liberty are expected to remain largely unobstructed during the year-long upgrade.