You are here

How Would YOU Fix the Statue of Liberty?

Liberty's Spiral Staircase; 'Blondie5000' photo via Flickr

The artist's touch is evident on this spiral, double helix staircase located on the interior of the Statue of Liberty; 'Blondie5000' photo via Flickr

Let's hear your thoughts. How would you fix the Statue of Liberty so that visiting her crown can once again be a reality?

Some background: earlier this week, Congress asked the National Park Service what it would take to restore public access to the top the Statue of Liberty. Visiting the crown had been a tradition at the Statue for many years. It had always been a difficult process; it had always been hot, muggy, and stinky experience; it had always taken a long time to climb, and then provided only a brief look out the window before having to move along; and, access had always been somewhat limited. In the years before September 11, only the first two boat loads of people had the opportunity to climb to the top.

When the terrorist attacks happened, many monuments were shut down because of a perceived threat. Because full access to the Statue of Liberty has not been restored since that day in 2001, the perception is that it is for fear of another attack. New York representative Weiner has even claimed, that if true, the terrorists "have won". The Park Service response has been that the Statue remains closed because of health and safety code issues present within the structure.

OK, so how do we fix this? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Some points that you may want to include in the discussion -

1) Should access be restored? If risk is involved, is it worth the chance that someone will get hurt or killed in an accident while climbing to the top? Just because it had been done for years and years prior, is that justification for restoring access now?

2) Can we compare the risk involved while climbing Lady Liberty (a man-made structure) with the risk involved climbing Yosemite's Half Dome (man-made cables assist hikers up a steep pitch, a pitch that has taken the lives of visitors)? If we accept the risk at Half Dome, can we apply that risk to the Statue?

3) Should we alter the Statue of Liberty to make it conform to safety codes? The Park Service says to meet code, they would have to cut into the statue and provide emergency access for escape or rescue.

4) Should we alter the Statue to provide easier access to the top? Can we add a bigger stairway, or perhaps an elevator in place of the original staircase?

5) Should we allow very limited access to the top, say no more than 50 people a day? Perhaps we could create a daily lottery in which the winners are awarded the opportunity to access Liberty's crown.

My Thoughts:
I contacted the National Park Service to ask if an elevator had been suggested as a solution. The reply was one I had never considered before, an answer I wish I had heard Deputy Director Wenk provide to Congress the other day. Spokesperson David Barna said,

Keep in mind that the Statue is a piece of art. Tearing out the spiral, double helix staircase designed by Bartholdi would run counter to NPS' mission of "preserving unimpaired" the historic fabric of the Statue of Liberty.

I had been trying to solve this problem as an engineer, viewing the structure as a historic building, when in fact, it really is a giant piece of art! The attached photo of the spiral staircase reveals the artists touch in something as simple as a staircase. He could have put in something very industrial, considering it is hidden beneath Liberty's shell, but he didn't, and that really needs to be considered. So, in my opinion, altering the Statue is out.

My solution would be to provide limited access to the top. If risk is involved, it does need to be put in perspective, and I think it is fair to compare it with other risk we accept around the national park system. I accept that if I have a heart attack at 10,000 feet on Mt Rainier, any rescue attempt may take awhile. It is the nature of the mountain that I'll be left vulnerable for some time. It seems fair to me, that climbers of the Statue of Liberty should recognize the risk; if something "bad" were to happen to them while they were in the Statue, every effort would be made to help them, but it is the nature of climbing the interior of a giant statue that rescue may take longer than normal. Probably for most people, the risk would be worth the reward of Liberty's crown.

How should access be limited? Is there a "fair" way? I'd say provide some type of free lottery. Every day something like 50 people, or 10 groups of 10, or some other type of limited grouping, would have the opportunity to be selected in a computer controlled lottery system. But provide grouping, so that couples, or families, or other arbitrary groups that visit the Statue of Liberty together, would have the opportunity to share the view from the crown together.

What are YOUR thought?


I'll render an opinion for the vast minority. I've never been much of a fan of super-sized artwork. At this point in our nation's history, super-sized is not very "PC", like anybody cares. The statue represents a lost ideal from our nation's glorious beginnings. "Liberty and justice for ALL", is how the statement reads I believe. Yet look around and it should be obvious that this notion is hardly the case in the modern era. Maybe now more so than ever this noble goal is a just and worthy pursuit, or more accurately a goal to reattain as a society, especially if we insist on functioning as the world's policeman. Lady Liberty, in my estimation, would be embarrassed and appalled by the perverted turn of events from a nation whose founding ideology has since been so corrupted so as to place us annually at or near the top of the world's list for human rights violations (independent international study data available upon request). In the interim, until such time as we can justify the inscription that the French, of all people, bestowed upon our country, shut the damn thing down. Avoid adding to the hypocracy that reflects so poorly on our current and well-deserved status in the world community. Throw a tarp over it until such time as we, as a nation, can hold our heads high, proclaiming and standing under scrutiny from any source, we are INDEED the foremost leader in personal liberty of ANY nation, under God, indivisible with...............".
How's that for stirring up the pot?

Lone Hiker - you are indeed stirring the pot! Here is the poem you make reference to (I think), engraved on a plaque found on Liberty's pedestal:

The New Colossus
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, ancient 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 golden door!"
Emma Lazarus, 1883

Yes, the statue is a gift from the French, but it looks like Lazarus was born in New York City.

I find the Statue of Liberty inspiring. I wouldn't agree that she stands for a lost ideal. Perhaps she stands for an ideal that has yet to be achieved. At some point in the past, it was probably a mistake to open up the interior of Statue for public tours. As has been said by the Park Service, Bartholdi never intended for it to serve such purpose. But, you can't put toothpaste back in the tube; what's done is done. By denying access now, the impression is she's been shut down in the face of terrorism. The ideals she stands for, feel a bit muted today without that access restored.

You nailed it Jeremy. The inscription that I was referring to, that is. I agree that a permanent closing, for whatever well intended (or misguided) reason, would be viewed in the court of world opinion as caving in to some ridiculous foreign agenda, not as an introspective study in American morals gone wrong or any other reason that might be proposed, even the old "for public safety during the renovation process", no matter how true the later might actually be. And I agree that closing the barn door after the horse is gone is pointless, even if leaving the door open is more pointless. Solutions? I don't believe that this is a black and white issue, and with every muted gray-scale comes it's own set of interesting considerations. Safety for climbers? It never was before, but in this sue-happy society, can it afford to be left in it's present condition? Addition of fire escape routes and emergency access (panels or otherwise)? I seriously doubt it that can be accomplished while not compromising the intergrity of the structure, externally speaking. Elevator access is in my view a tremendous waste of funding, and I personally would rather have a coronary on the stairwell than be stranded in mid-stream during on of NYC's famous brown-outs. Open for all at any time......too dangerous. Closed permanently.....too un-American. Talk about your no-win situation!

P.S. You're kidding that nobody had the foresight to consider an elevator, right?

The Statue is really not very large. I remember fondly several lunch breaks from my days as a trainer -- munching on a reuben from the Stage Door Deli, sitting at the top of the World Trade Center, staring off to the south, amazed at how small the Statue of Liberty really was in the scheme of things. When you're young, it's outrageously huge. When you see it again as an adult years later, you're amazed at how small it really is -- like Mount Rushmore -- you expect it to loom so much larger because of the thing it's come to represent -- which is far bigger than any statue any human can ever build.

Leave it alone. Have people sign the waiver. Limit the access to those able to make the climb. No food. No backpacks. Bring your own water. Simple.

It was closed for a big chunk of the early 80s when they were giving it a face lift for its centennial. It's been closed a lot during my adult years -- way too often.

You all have good points! I believe She needs to be removed and clean and put up in Front of The old Twin Tower's {she would then be finnish bout the time the NEW TOWER WAS Finish}.

And low maintances from there on a Newer Copy, the outside made of Sun reastence Heavy greaded Plastic, A non-rusting Steel interal with all or more bells and whistel. Elevator access addition of fire escape routes and emergency.

It woulg be lower maintance in the long run.

Were're Still the Best DAM Country To Live In!
They may hate us for being Human and want to destroy our ways, But you no and no there the 1st inline to get here.

Yes, we are the best "dam" country. So many dams on our rivers...

On a related note to the story, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The statue isn't the problem; the problem is too many visitors.

I think it is still under, take it down, send it back to France for the fix

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide