The Pedestal

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Just about every statue needs a pedestal, which is a solid base upon which it is situated. You might even have small figurines at home that are like tiny statues, attached to some kind of base that helps them stay solidly upright and not topple over so easily. Now think about having a statue that is 150 feet tall. What kind of base you would need to build to make that statue not only rise up into the air nice and tall, but also to keep it solidly attached to the ground?

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Richard Morris Hunt designed the base of the Statue of Liberty. He was an architect from Brattleboro, Vermont. He went through several different designs before coming up with one that he and everyone else involved in the project liked. The final design that was built looks a lot like a castle, and the sculptor who was working on the statue itself did envision the pedestal as being a kind of “fortress of liberty.” Hunt originally wanted the building to be about 114 feet tall, but that ended up being too expensive. He finally settled for 87 feet instead. Even so, the pedestal cost $270,000 back in the 1880s. If it were built today, it would cost more than $6 million!

The really neat thing about the pedestal is that it is an entire building that you can go inside. And inside the pedestal is a whole museum about the making the statue. Not only that, but you can go up to the top of the pedestal and see the view from there – which is amazing. You can climb the 215 steps to get there, or you can take an elevator most of the way up.

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The pedestal itself, when it was built in the 1880s, was the largest concrete structure in the whole country, weighing 27,000 tons (that’s 54 million pounds). A total of 53 feet of the pedestal is actually below ground to give it a solid footing, and at the very bottom is 91 square feet in area. By contrast, on ground level the base is only 65 square feet in area. The concrete walls above ground range from 8 to 19 feet thick. The top of the pedestal upon which Lady Liberty stands is further tapered down to 43 square feet.

Prior to 2001, no reservations were required to access the Pedestal building, but since then it has become such a popular destination that a new system had to be implemented in 2004 to limit pedestal visitation for safety and avoiding overcrowding.

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When you get to Liberty Island, the Pedestal’s entrance is the white tent behind the statue. Each person planning to enter the Pedestal must show their valid ticket to the rangers stationed at the entrance, with the exception of children under the age of 4.
There are a number of specific items that MAY NOT be brought into the Pedestal building, including the following:

  • Food
  • Beverages
  • Backpacks of any type
  • Laptop computers
  • Strollers
  • Long umbrellas
  • Tripods

Storage lockers may be rented for 2 hours at a cost of $2 in order to stow any such items during your visit to Liberty Island. Please note that lockers must be paid for in cash and only bills are accepted.

There are 215 steps to climb from the lobby to the top of the Pedestal building. You may also take an elevator up to the top, but be aware that there are a few stairs to climb before and after the elevator.

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