Renovating a symbol of Freedom: The Statue of Liberty

Renovating a symbol of Freedom: The Statue of Liberty

I was contacted some time ago by the team that recently completed renovations to the Statue of Liberty. It seemed fitting to feature this renovation as we celebrate our independence.

Statue from front

The Statue is also a World Heritage Site, the only one in New York State.

Significant Enhancements

For the recent renovation, new interior and exterior stairs and new elevators were added, making it easier for visitors to ascend to the pedestal’s observation level, which is wheelchair accessible for the first time.  From the top level of the pedestal, visitors can view the double helix stairs leading to the Statue’s crown as well as the support system designed by renowned French architect and engineer Gustave Eiffel.  A new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system creates a more comfortable environment as visitors ascend or descend the stairs.

NE Section Perspective with labels high res


The Statue of Liberty National Monument consists of Ellis and Liberty Islands. The components that make up the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island include:

  • Fort Wood, a former fortification for the defense of the New York harbor, completed in 1811. The Army Corps of Engineers developed the fort in the shape of an 11-point star.
  • The Terreplein, or the top platform of Fort Wood, which acts as an observation point and base for the Pedestal.
  • The Pedestal, The Pedestal, designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1886, was designed with poured concrete walls faced with granite blocks. The exterior base of the American Museum of Immigration addition, completed in 1965, is composed of a concrete shell faced with granite, sitting in the promenade surrounding the base at the lower level of the Pedestal.
  • The Statue, officially named Liberty Enlightening the World, which was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. It was dedicated to the United States as a gift from France on October 28, 1886.
  • The framework, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel. The framework is anchored to the concrete walls of the Pedestal and acts as an internal support system for the Statue.

Statue of Liberty Renovation

History of the Monument

Designed by French sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi, the Statue of Liberty was given to the people of the United States by the people of France on October 28, 1886. The first public elevator was installed in 1906 to provide access to the top of the pedestal. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred the Statue of Liberty National Monument to the care of the National Park Service. Five years later, the first major rehabilitation was completed on the statue, pedestal, base, and walkways. The monument received additional work between 1984 and 1986, notably replacing the torch and strengthening the outstretched arm.  April 2004 marked the beginning of life safety improvements to the Monument which allowed it to re-open in July of that year for the first time since the events of 9/11.  In April 2009, further improvements were made to the double helix stairs leading up to the crown, which reopened on July 4, 2009.


  • 1811: Developed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Wood is built on Bedloe’s Island (presently Liberty Island) as part of New York City’s harbor defense system.
  • 1865: Professor Edouard de Laboulaye and sculptor Auguste Bartholdi begin discussions based on the concept of creating a statue commemorating America’s independence.
  • 1870: Bartholdi designs the statue.


  • 1875: Bartholdi completes the first plaster model.  Fundraising efforts for the statue begin in France. The statue is officially given a name, Liberty Enlightening the World.
  • 1876-1884: Workers at the Gaget and Gauthier workshop in Paris create the three hundred separate pieces of Liberty’s copper skin. Together, the pieces weigh 88 tons, or 176,000 pounds.


  • 1877: The U.S. Congress passes a bill agreeing to locate the Statue on Bedloe’s Island.


  • 1880: Bartholdi contacts engineer Gustave Eiffel to design the Statue’s internal support system.
  • 1881: The American committee of the Statue of Liberty holds an architectural competition for the pedestal and awards the commission to architect Richard Morris Hunt.


  • 1884: Work on the pedestal is suspended due to lack of funding. John Pulitzer, publisher of the newspaper the World, raises $102,000 through nation-wide fundraising efforts.


  • 1885: The statue is dismantled in Paris and shipped in 214 crates across the Atlantic Ocean to New York City.


  • 1886: The pedestal is completed and the statue is assembled. On October 28thLiberty Enlightening the World is dedicated to the United States of America as a gift from France.
  • 1906: The first public elevator is installed to provide service to the top of the pedestal.
  • 1924: President Calvin Coolidge designates the Statue of Liberty a National Monument.
  • 1933: President Franklin D. Roosevelt transfers the Statue of Liberty to the care of the National Park Service.
  • 1937: The U.S. Army officially vacates Fort Wood.
  • 1937-1938: The Works Progress Administration (WPA) rehabilitates areas of the statue such as the halo supports and the steps at the pedestal’s base. The WPA also takes measures to prevent further damage from rainwater that had seeped into the pedestal.
  • 1956: An act of Congress changes the name of Bedloe’s Island to Liberty Island.
  • 1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs a Presidential Proclamation that adds Ellis Island to the National Park Service, under the Statue of Liberty National Monument. The NPS builds the American Museum of Immigration around the base of the pedestal.
  • 1984: UNESCO designates the Statue of Liberty National Monument as a World Heritage Site, the only one in the State of New York.
  • 1984-1986: French and American engineers collaborate to restore parts of the statue in preparation for its centennial in 1986. The team preserves and repaires the exterior, notably the torch and the outstretched arm. The team also adds a new elevator and open stairs, removes interior coatings, and changes the support armature to stainless steel.
  • 2001: After the September 11th attacks, the Statue of Liberty National Monument is closed to the public. Liberty Island is reopened on December 20th, but both the pedestal and the statue remain closed.
  • 2004: Access to the top of Fort Wood and the observation level atop the pedestal are reopened, but the crown remains closed.
  • 2009: Improvements to the double-helix stairs leading up to the crown begin in April. On July 4th, the crown is reopened to the public after eight years.
  • 2011:  On October 28th, the Statue of Liberty National Monument celebrates the 125th anniversary of its dedication. The following day, the Monument is closed for life and safety improvements, as well as better accessibility and an improved visitor experience.

Stairs to the crown

Significant Challenges

Construction on the 126-year-old Statue of Liberty National Monument continued while Liberty Island remained open to between 5,000 and 10,000 visitors daily.  Challenges of the construction included:

  • Liberty Island cannot be accessed by bridge or tunnel.  Therefore, all construction materials had to be delivered by barge in two to three daily deliveries.
  • Stringent security regulations were in place for the daily transport of workers, materials, and equipment to and from Liberty Island.
  • The historic nature of the Statue required extra care during construction, including the re-use of original attachment points for the emergency elevator, and the preservation of the original structure designed by Gustave Eiffel.
  • The entire interior structure of the pedestal was rebuilt from the ground up.  Demolition and rebuilding of the steel structure at each pedestal level had to be phased, with the top level (Level 6P) remaining intact to allow for hoisting of materials through the pedestal to the observation deck.  After all other levels were complete, Level 6P was demolished and replaced.
  • Special accommodations were made for construction on an island, such as creating an admixture to the concrete so it would not set in the trucks before they could be transported to the island by barge.
  • New building materials needed to match the original building materials, especially the pedestal and the American Museum of Immigration, and reviewed with the NPS prior to construction.
  • Construction equipment and materials storage was not permitted to block the “view shed” of the Statue for visitors to Liberty Island.


Materials used in the project include:

  • Cast-in-place concrete, which forms the new main elevator shaft and lobby enclosures in the pedestal, along with the structure for the new stairs at the north and south sides of the Monument.
  • Stucco and fire-rated glass, which are used as part of the enclosure for the stairs within the pedestal.
  • Structural steel, which forms the new stairs that ascend the pedestal.
  • Decorative bronze rails and guards, which visually connect the new staircases to the Monument’s historic copper and wrought iron elements.
  • Granite, used for the exterior stairs.
  • Terrazzo, used in many areas, including the bathroom floors.

Artist Rendering - Statue of Liberty Stair at 3_6

Joseph A. Natoli Construction Corporation

Project Team

Project Executive: Paul Natoli

Project Manager: Bill Champi

Project Coordinator: Bill Fitzgerald

Project Superintendent: Len Bird

Quality Control Superintendent: Bryan Schultz

Project Logistics Coordinator: Gil Francini

Assistant Project Superintendent: Dan VanDyke


Design team

Architects: Mills & Schnoering Architects LLC

Construction Manager: Atkins North America, Inc.

Structural Engineer: Keast & Hood Co.

MEP Engineer: Joseph R. Loring & Associates

Fire Protection Engineer: Hughes Associates, Inc.

Vertical Transportation Consultant: VDA (Van Deusen & Associates)

Cost Estimator: Becker & Frondorf

Lighting Designer: The Lighting Practice

Civil Engineer: The RBA Group

Geotechnical Engineer: Schnabel

Value Analysis: David Evans Associates

Statue of Liberty Life Safety Upgrades Project 2011 – 2012 Fun Facts:

Courtesy of Joseph A. Natoli Construction Corporation

820 cubic yards of Concrete used                      =          23 cubic yards of New York City newsstands

72,000 pounds of Rebar used                 =          216,000 New York State Empire apples

263,000 pounds of Granite used             =          164 large Polar bears from the Central Park Zoo (~1,600 pounds each)

Deer Isle Granite was used in the project, also used in the construction of Rockefeller Plaza

986 individual pieces of Granite used    =          Almost twice the number of LED light blubs used in the Times Square “2012” New Year’s display (526)

20 tons of structural steel used              =          80,000 New York bagels

53 tons of steel stair material used          =          212,000 New York bagels

2,600 linear feet of decorative bronze    =          52,000 New York City street vendor hot dogs end-to-end

About 100 workers per day                    =          Over 4 times the amount of ball fields in Central Park (24)

About 280 days worked by crew            =          Over average annual days of sunshine in New York (234)

950 square feet of glass installed             =          Over 2 times the size of the average New York City Apartment (400 square feet)