Access to the pedestal is limited and requires reservations, so be sure to book ahead
The Statue of Liberty itself might hog the limelight, but there’s a story behind the pedestal too. While the statue was a grand gift from the French to the people of the United States, the pedestal was constructed by the Americans.
It was built to face southeast, so that the statue would greet (and cow) ships entering the harbour from the Atlantic Ocean. It is 27 metres tall and designed as a truncated pyramid replete with Aztec motifs and elements of Greek architecture, such as its Doric portals.
Money, money, money
Financial concerns dogged the pedestal’s construction. The Panic of 1873 led to an economic depression that persisted through much of the decade and there was criticism of the fact that the Americans were required to foot the bill for the rather less glamorous pedestal, while the French were to design the key part of an American public work. As a result of this, committee fundraising lagged.
In the end it was the American people who paid: five months of daily calls to donate in the New York World newspaper raised $102,000 from 120,000 donors, with 80% of the total received in sums of less than a dollar.
A torch to the past
The pedestal museum’s collection is divided into three parts: history, archeology and natural history. It follows the development of Liberty and Ellis islands from the 19th to the 21st century, as they served as military sites, immigrant stations, hospitals and home to the Statue of Liberty. You can also find the statue’s original torch here — in 1984 it was replaced by a new copper torch covered in 24k gold leaf.
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