Recognized worldwide as a symbol of political freedom and democracy, the Statue of Liberty was a gift of from the people of France to the people of the United States in recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution. Sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi had been commissioned to design a sculpture with the year 1876 in mind for completion, to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. It was agreed that the Statue would be a joint effort between America and France -- the American people were to build the pedestal and the French people would be responsible for the Statue and its assembly in the United States.
Raising funds proved to be a problem in both countries, but the Statue was eventually completed in France in July of 1884. It was was transported to the United States on board the French frigate "Isere" and arrived in New York Harbor in June of 1885. On October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland accepted the Statue on behalf of the United States and said in part, "We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home."
The Statue of Liberty was designated a National Monument (and a unit of the National Park Service) on October 15, 1924. Leading up to her centennial on July 4, 1986, the statue underwent extensive restoration. Today the 58.5-acre World Heritage Site (in 1984) draws more than five million visitors a year.
History of Ellis Island
Between 1892 and 1954, approximately 12 million steerage and third class steamship passengers who entered the United States through the port of New York were legally and medically inspected at Ellis Island. April 17, 1907 marked the busiest day of recorded immigration, during which 11,747 immigrants were processed through the historic Immigration Station on a single day.
Ellis Island was incorporated as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument on May 11, 1965, and was opened to the public on a limited basis between 1976 and 1984. Starting in 1984, Ellis Island underwent a $162 million restoration, the largest historic restoration in U.S. history. It reopened in 1990, and the main building on Ellis Island is now a museum dedicated to the history of immigration and the important role this island claimed during the mass migration of humanity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The museum receives almost 2 million visitors annually.
Checking Immigration Records
April 17, 2001, marked the opening of the American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island. The center, located in the restored Main Building, contains the database records of more than 22 million passengers that arrived through the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924. You can research passenger records from the ships that brought the immigrants -- even see the original manifests with the passengers' names.
Things To Do at the Statue of Liberty
Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities when visiting the Statue of Liberty. At the Statue of Liberty National Monument, visitors can climb 354 steps (22 stories) to the Statue’s crown. (Unfortunately, a visit to the top often can mean a 2-3 hour wait.) The Pedestal observation deck also offers a spectacular view of New York Harbor and can be reached either by climbing 192 steps or by elevator.
For those with time constraints, a visit to the museum exhibits located in the Statue's pedestal explains how the monument was conceived, constructed and restored. Tours are offered by National Park Service personnel. Also, visitors can view the New York Harbor skyline from the lower promenade sections of the pedestal.
The Information Center on Liberty Island features exhibits on other National Park Service sites in the New York City area and throughout the nation. For information about programs for school groups, please call the reservations coordinator at (212) 363-3200.
Getting to the Park
The Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum on Ellis Island are located in Lower New York Harbor, slightly more than one mile from Lower Manhattan. Liberty and Ellis Islands are accessible by ferry service only. Ferries are operated by Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Ferry, Inc. from both New York and New Jersey. They depart from Battery Park in New York City and Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey. A roundtrip ferry ticket includes visits to both islands.
For current ferry schedule information, advance ticket purchases, and other useful information, visit their web site or contact them at (212) 269-5755 for New York and (201) 435-9499 for New Jersey departure information.
Time Pass Reservation System at Statue of Liberty
A "time pass" reservation system has been implemented by the National Park Service for visitors who plan on entering the monument. Time passes are available at no cost from the ferry company with the purchase of a ferry ticket. Advance tickets can be ordered (at least 48 hours) by calling the ferry company at: 1-866-STATUE4 or on-line at: www.statuereservations.com
A limited number of time passes are available from the ferry company each day on a first-come, first-served basis. Time passes are not needed to visit the grounds of Liberty Island or the Ellis Island immigration museum.
Stature of Liberty Facts
The Statue of Liberty is 305 feet, 1 inch from the ground to the tip of the torch.
There are 25 windows in the crown which symbolize gemstones found on the earth and heaven's rays shining over the world.
The seven rays of the Statue's crown represent the seven seas and continents of the world.
The tablet which the Statue holds in her left hand reads (in Roman numerals) "July 4th, 1776."
Several agencies have been official caretakers of the Statue of Liberty. Initially, the U.S. Lighthouse Board cared for the Statue as the first electric lighthouse or "aid to navigation" (1886-1902), followed by the War Department (1902-1933) to the National Park Service (1933-present).