This morning, the original Statue of Liberty torch which was carried by Lady Liberty for nearly hundred years from its dedication in 1886 to 1984, was moved across Liberty Island. A special hydraulically stabilized vehicle carried the torch 470 feet from the small museum inside the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal to its new home inside the Statue of Liberty Museum, which is under construction and will open in May 2019. Untapped Cities was on hand to view the ceremonial occasion, which was attended by Stephen Briganti, President and CEO of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, John Piltzecker, Superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument along with numerous park service rangers. Plus, a sizable SWAT team to keep the historical artifact safe!
The 3,600 pound, gold and copper torch was part of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s original design for the Statue of Liberty, which was built in Paris in a studio in the west of Paris. “The original torch has crossed many miles,” said Briganti, as he recounted its journey starting in 1876 when it came for its first trip to America, the first piece of the Statue of Liberty to arrive. It was displayed in Madison Square Park from 1876 to 1882 (and in Philadelphia for the Centennial Exposition), as part of a fundraising and awareness campaign. In 1882, it headed back to Paris, and returned with the rest of the statue to New York Harbor in 1885.
“Over the years, windows were cut into the torch in an effort to make it more like a lighthouse. These modifications radically altered the original design and the upper portion of the torch became badly damaged,” said Briganti. In the 1984 restoration of the Statue of Liberty, the torch was determined to be beyond repair and a replica was installed which is seen today. The original torch then took a foray to Pasadena, California where it was featured in the 1985 Rose Bowl Parade to create awareness about the Statue of Liberty’s centennial awareness campaign. In 1986, the torch was installed in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
Along for the ride was the copper replica of the Statue of Liberty’s face that was also previously display in the pedestal museum. Commissioned for the museum, visitors could touch it to get a sense of the copper plating. The discerning will note that the face is not an exact replica however.
The move, along with the new Statue of Liberty Museum, designed by the architecture firm FXCollaborative with exhibits created by ESI Design, will be a showcase for the history of the museum, a “more fitting place where all of our visitors, from across the nation and around the world, will be able to see it and be inspired by it,” said Piltzecker. The torch will be the centerpiece of the new museum in the “Inspiration Gallery,” but other artifacts will include the original hand-forged iron bars made by Gustav Eiffel that were removed from the Statue of Liberty in the centennial restoration. The torch will undergo some restoration in the next few months, including the replacement of the lighting system and the glass. Access to the museum will be free with purchase of a ferry ticket to Liberty and Ellis Islands, and will have a green roof offering stunning views of Lower Manhattan and of course, Lady Liberty.
Check out more photographs of the move below, with some sneak peek pictures of the Statue of Liberty Museum:
Have you joined us for our tour of the abandoned hospitals on Ellis Island or our “Unframed” JR tour that takes you to all of the art pieces by artist JR inside the hospital complex?
Behind-the-Scenes Hard Hat Tour of the Abandoned Ellis Island Hospital
Next, check out 10 Fun Facts About the Torch of NYC’s Statue of Liberty