Proposed New Viewing Area For The Statue of Liberty

Joseph Fiebiger

© Joseph Fiebiger 2008; All Rights Reserved


A great deal of interest is being expressed to reopen the Crown of Statue of Liberty to public access. I present an alternative concept with the hope that it will be thought of as a viable solution for providing the public with greater access without being injurious to the Statue. It allows people to once again have a personal relationship with the Statue and to appreciate her scale and majesty in a manner that has never before been able to be seen and appreciated. It allows the handicapped to participate in this experience.

Of paramount importance, this proposal removes Her from harm’s way. I hope that this concept will initiate a new way of thinking about how to address the public’s desire for a more expansive experience of Miss Liberty.

Perhaps it is folklore, but it has been argued that Mr. Bartholdi intended for the Statue to be kinetic; to be stepping forward, welcoming the immigrants. Perhaps those immigrants felt this warm embrace. Powerful ingredients in this metaphor are her raised right foot and the broken shackles. These elements are seen by no one.

My personal blush is that this is a unique experience, Lady Liberty embracing the visitor. The visitor allowed to visit her base, her raised foot, her broken chains. The visitor being enabled to feel what she represents and the extraordinary open view of the New York Harbor will be more dynamic than before.

I was fortunate to be a participant in the Restoration of The Statue of Liberty from 1983 to 1986. Those of us who had both the burdens and the glories of being in this position saw elements of the Statue that visitors do not even know exist.

During the restoration I watched artisans, craftsmen, workmen, historians, curators, scholars, businessmen and children from the Make A Wish Foundation display emotions when they saw the chains. I felt like an interloper to people’s personal experiences at this moment in time, with this Lady. I wondered then why something could not be done to provide access. Should not visitors be able to see and feel the emotions that the Statue’s base evoke?

After all, the interior spiral stair was not part of the Bartholdi / Eiffel scheme. It came twenty years later (1906), fashioned by the Brooklyn Iron Works. It was a service stair and preceded Gutzon Borglum’s (1913) failed attempt to light the torch by cutting it apart and installing lites of glass.  It provided the access to the torch; the torch was closed to the public in 1916. The spiral stair is brilliant, where has one ever seen a double decker spiral stair?

Truth be told though, the millions of visitors had to undergo bouts with claustrophobia and exhaustion to have a glorious experience. Traveling through the Statue is noteworthy to some, boring to others. But the grand view of New York Harbor is dynamic. The entire experience is remembered vividly for lifetimes.

Did Mr. Bartholdi plan to have his Statue sitting on a base and pedestal which rise a total of 155 feet? Or was this the brain child of Joseph Pulitzer as he commissioned Richard Morris Hunt and provided the necessary impetus to bring the Statue to New York Harbor? How did the antipathy between Bartholdi and Eiffel alter the original conception? No one doubts that Mr. Bartholdi designed Her to be seen from grade. My speculation is that he compromised and allowed it be set on a base and pedestal, 155 feet above grade. Did that effect Mr. Eiffel’s calculations? Did the proportions change? Why did Mr. Bartholdi want to change the angle of arm and attempt to do so without Mr. Eiffel?

One doubts that we will ever answer these questions regarding “original intent.” Nonetheless, they provide license for thinking about creative options for adopting to today’s concerns about public safety and preservation while providing the public with what may be, Mr. Bartholdi’s desired view.

I believe that an amazing dynamic is being borne! Visitors are unhurried, they are out of doors and they are being embraced by Lady Liberty herself and the views of New York. They are in a position that has never before been possible. Until now, virtually hidden.

As a personal aside, I spent some idyllic moments outside the Lady; gentle breezes blowing, sun shinning, tugboats tooting their horns, ships passing, all to the background of New York. There were also notable experiences in cold, wind and rain; visitors can demure.

I have taken the liberty of submitting my ideas via my “Sketch Book.” I have shown various views of my suggestions. As you would expect, there are many other views which lie in the file, part of the learning curve of a designer’s train of thought. My favorite is found on SK-6, a Front Elevation – Curved Promenade – Gussets. I like the gussets for the visual balance which they provide. I do not think that they are needed structurally.


Some of the key components of the concept are:

v Implementation of a glass enclosed hydraulic elevator to provide access for the handicapped.

v Two circular stairs, each with rest areas. This begs a question for the 21st century mentality (which I fear I am not). Should elevators, despite their reduction in people moving capacity, be used rather than the stairs? Perhaps, not glass enclosed cabs like the handicap access elevator; an open cab with woven wire fabric for the walls. Also, one should note that rectilinear, “scissor stairs” can be used. I used them in a few schemes but did not like them.

v A wide promenade with photo op areas. A “no-rush” atmosphere and a dynamic view of New York Harbor. Granted this view is from a height of 155’ while the view from the Crown is 265’. But, so many more visitors could be accommodated for longer periods on the Promenade, with extraordinary, unobstructed views of the Statue and of the Harbor.

v The stair treads and the promenade will have a heated floor to prevent the accumulation of snow or ice. Their handrails will have chilled water delivered in hot weather, so it will always be comfortable.

v Visitors will be able to purchase or rent optical devices to provide a closer inspection of the areas above them.  An audio tour will be provided via some high tech devices, iPod, Podcasts, etc. A photo op facility can be established, taking professional digital photos of visitors and delivering them either by print or e-mail. The revenue which is generated from these items can be used to fund this project. One would imagine that the NPS will find avenues of disbursement for the continuing revenue stream.

I have shown two promenade versions, one curved and one rectilinear with chamfered corners. I prefer the curve. It provides for a stronger protective fence without the need for outboard “raker” braces.  It has large areas for photo gatherings and it is graceful.

The promenade should be able to be supported with large structural steel elements, penetrating the fieldstone and attached mechanically to the existing structural steel. This infrastructure, a cantilever, may fit within the thickness of the perimeter stringers or mounted below, if the engineers prefer. A belt and suspenders provision is shown, calling for large decorative gussets.

One motif is a patinated green railing that would hopefully disappear when viewed from a distance, being lost in the background of the Statue. I am hoping to take a page from the book of Louis Sullivan, a contemporary of Richard Morris Hunt. Mr. Sullivan copper plated many of his decorative stairs, balconies, etc. All of the structural steel, tubular steel and iron members will be plated with a base of electroless nickel to prevent corrosion (not Sullivan) and copper. All the work will be patinated, and handrails will be sealed with a top coat.                                         

The other option is stainless steel, nickel colored, also meant to disappear at a distance. I think that it will be too reflective.

The ideas that I present here can be executed by many local iron shops. There is no art required here; good craftsmanship is the mandate.



The times in which we live have forced prudent people to make a very prudent and understandable decision. Allow no access to the interior to assure her safety. A wise choice, all would agree. Curiously, it is an ironic metaphor, this symbol of Freedom being “closed.” On the other hand, I have read the opinions of Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Anthony Weiner. They are so very right and yet so are those who have been prudent by protecting the Statue. Perhaps this proposal will provide a viable method to satisfy all.


Issues of the Scientific American of the 1880’s had articles with pen drawings of the actions. Much of what was written I took as truth; could it have been glorified as part of the lore, I would imagine, yes. Did they really erect this, with 28 men?  Did the derricks which they fastened at the structural members of the Crown really provide methods of hoisting and providing Bo’ suns chairs? Why not? Armed with that image I thought that a modern version should be executed. One that expands when set in place and is fitted with high tech personnel equipment.  How do you perform routine inspections and maintenance without erecting scaffolding? I wonder now, if this device could not be designed to also provide for materials’ handling?


Necessity is truly the mother of invention! When there is a need, there is a solution! Some examples: when the 316L Stainless Steel Bars used for the armature replacement became workhard and hence worthless, we invented an annealing device to restore all of the original properties to the materials. When those bars began to rust, despite being “stainless” the combined genius of the late Richard Smith and Steven Weintraub formulated a chemical process to pasiviate the materials. An added extra is that if the bars ever are to become cosmetically displeasing, the Statue needs only be filled, via an oxygen generator, with non chloride air for two to three days with no occupancy. The bars will heal themselves.

The elements of the skin of the Statue that had corroded and needed to be replaced required that we find a manner in which to replicate them exactly while not replicating the problem. It would have been easy to just do what they did 100 years earlier, reproducing the same failure a 100 years into the future.

We experimented with space age materials and methods of deep drawing, by hand, coaxing the material without thinning it. Working sideways, not down and then via playing with the mixing of different compressed gases and different filler materials to achieve a truly invisible welded area. Creating areas that shows no color discoloration through the patinization process.

Then came Ellis Island and the need was to make the thousands of parts via machine. They had been made as “rope stampings.”  Though “rope stamping” equipment was still available it was a dangerous machine and a noise polluter and would never have been allowed to be used in midtown Manhattan.

Necessity – invention, we used a 100 ton triple acting hydraulic press with 8 to 10 pounds of air pressure (third action), safe and quiet, to fashion copper across peaks and valleys. Industrial engineers for West Bend Company (coffee pots) said it was impossible. Not impossible – it just needed perseverance and a team effort.

The domes of Ellis Island oscillated and had not been designed to have expansion joints. The rotation of the domes, oscillating, following the sun’s voyage, through the southern sky is known by many. We demonstrated that the domes, in the middle of a New York winter, inexorably moved 7/32” each day. We designed and executed methods of providing for this movement, while obviating work hard conditions to the elements. Realizing that times do change, I am suggesting an exterior viewing arena, executed in such a way as to comply with Historical Preservation techniques and be reversible in the future, if desired. We show our respect for both the past and the future.