The Statue of Liberty is one of the most enduring of American images. The monument's concept was first discussed in 1865 at the Paris home of Edouard René Lefebvre de Laboulaye, a legal scholar and an authority on America, who saw it as an opportunity to further republican ideals in France. Laboulaye discussed the idea with his dinner guest, sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, who later received the commission. It was formally presented to the United States on July 4, 1884, and dedicated in 1886.
The statue's iron skeleton was engineered by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (yes, he of the Parisian tower) and mounted on a base designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt. Clad in a skin of beautifully oxidized copper, the statue towers more than 151 feet and weighs 225 tons. Her index finger alone is eight feet long and her mouth, three-feet wide—12 rather uncomfortable persons could fit within the torch. Within, visitors take an elevator then climb 168 steps to the crown, which offers breathtaking views of the harbor.
The statue was completely refurbished for its 1986 centennial. For two years French and American craftsmen worked on it, replacing corroded iron ribs with stainless steel and strengthening the uplifted arm, which had been incorrectly installed in 1886. In keeping with the original design, French metal crafters replaced the old glass torch, lit from inside, with a gold-plated copper version, lit with reflected light. The $140 million restoration was carried out simultaneously with the renovation at Ellis Island.
On July 4, 2009, the statue's crown reopened for visitation.
Rangers provide free, 45-minute tours explaining the conception, construction and restoration of one the world's monument as well as Island history and harbor environs. Schedule of public tours is posted at the Information Center.
Curriculum-based programs for grades 4 to 8 are available by calling the National Park Service at (212) 363-3206 x134.