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Statue of Liberty

Construction of the Pedestal

By Benjamin Levine and Isabelle F. Story
National Park Service, 1961

This Web Version
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In 1877, Congress authorized the setting aside of ground in New York Harbor on which to erect the statue and made provision for its reception and maintenance. Gen. W T Sherman was designated to select the site. In accordance with Bartholdi's wish, he chose Bedloe's Island.

Gen. Charles P. Stone, an Army engineer, was appointed engineer in chief by the American Committee. It was decided that the pedestal This enlarged sectional model of left hand holding tablet shows the method of construction. From "Album des Travaux de Construction de la Statue Colossale de la Liberte destinde au Port de New-York," 1883.

should be built in the center of old Fort Wood, an 11-pointed starshaped fort constructed early in the 19th century to protect New York, which was becoming increasingly important as a commercial depot. Ground was broken for the foundation on April 18, 1883. Excavations were more difficult than anticipated, because of the heavy masses of stone masonry and concrete encountered in the cisterns and old arches designed as bombproof and not all indicated in drawings of the fort. Placing of the pedestal foundation, almost solid concrete, at a depth of 20 feet in the center of the 11-pointed star-shaped walls of Fort Wood improved its stability.

Because of the decision to build the pedestal upon the old fort, the design recommended by Bartholdi had to be changed, in the interest of architectural harmony, strength, and economy. Granite from Leete's Island, Conn., was selected as the material for the outer wall, to be backed by a massive shaft of concrete. The cornerstone of the pedestal was laid by William A. Brodie, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York State, with impressive Masonic ceremony on August 5, 1884.

Work on the pedestal progressed rapidly until the autumn of 1884 when, with only 15 feet of the structure completed, work had to be stopped, as the American Committee was reaching the end of its financial resources. With the solving of the financial problem in 1885, work was resumed, the builders then turning their attention to a highly important engineering problem -- how the statue would resist wind pressure.

When the 29-foot level was reached in construction of the pedestal, four huge girders were built into the walls so that they formed a square across the inside. Fifty-five feet higher -- a few feet from the top of the pedestal -- similar girders were placed, and the two sets were connected by the iron tie beams which continued on up and became part of the framework of the statue itself. Thus the statue was made an integral part of the pedestal, and any force exerted upon it was carried down to the 29-foot level, so that the great weight of the upper 60 feet of the granite and concrete pedestal was added to that of the statue.

The pedestal itself is considered one of the heaviest pieces of masonry ever built. It towers 89 feet above its foundation and is so anchored to it-and that in turn to the rock below the foundation-that a windstorm, to overturn the statue, would almost have to invert the whole island. General Stone evolved the method of anchorage, and his careful calculations have been proved by the test of years.

On April 22, 1886, the last stone of the pedestal was swung into place and the jubilant workmen showered into the mortar a collection of silver coins from their own pockets.

Now the stage was set to receive and place in position the generous gift from the people of France.

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