Another chance to see inside a piece of history
August 1, 2009
I heard some good news the other day that may be of interest to anyone who is planning a vacation during what’s left of summer or just appreciates sheet metal craftsmanship.
The Statue of Liberty’s crown has reopened to tourists.
Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, the inside of the sheet metal-clad statue that sits in New York Harbor has been closed to tourists.
Besides the security threat of allowing the public inside the statue, the small, winding stairs that lead to its crown were never designed to accommodate them, National Park Service officials said when they announced the closure.
The announcement was deeply disappointing to many tourists. Even the mayor of New York City asked the park service to reconsider.
It was widely predicted that the crown would never again be open to visitors. The small observation platform that surrounds the statue’s torch has been closed since a terrorist incident in 1916.
But last year the park service decided that with some new precautions in place, the crown would again offer visitors a one-of-a-kind look at Manhattan’s skyline.
It officially reopened July 4. Tickets are selling out up to a year in advance, according to a report I heard on the radio.
Not just any projectI mention this because in addition to being one of the highest profile sheet metal projects in the world, Snips interviewed one of the people involved in restoring Lady Liberty’s crown.
Back in 2004, I profiled Syracuse, N.Y., resident Dennis Heaphy, a tinsmith and actor hired by the park service in 1999 to restore the vintage locks and hinges that worked the crown’s windows (see “A monumental project,” November 2004).
He had contacted me after reading a Snips article about a year earlier about some of the best-known U.S. sheet metal projects. Among them was the Statue of Liberty.
Heaphy, who credited his work as an historical actor on nearby Ellis Island with helping him secure the project, described the work as very slow and meticulous. One time, after missing the last ferry back to Manhattan, he was forced to sleep inside the statue, listening to it creak and feeling it sway all night.
At the time I spoke to him, Heaphy lamented that the public would likely never see his handiwork. The park service had only reopened surrounding Liberty Island and the statue’s base to tours a few months earlier, and officials were firm that there were no plans to reopen the crown’s observation deck.
I haven’t talked to Heaphy in years, but I see that he now works with the Ellis Island Museum of American Immigration performing historical reenactments of the experiences of early 20th century immigrants. I imagine he’s pretty happy - and proud - that tourists will again get to see out of the windows that he worked so hard on.
While attending last year’s AHR Expo in New York City, I was able to take a few hours for a boat tour of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Statue of Liberty. As I stood out on the deck, freezing in the late January offshore winds, I thought of him and his handiwork. I’m glad I might get a chance now to see it someday.