Photo Needed: Liberty Island prior to 1885, without the Statue of Liberty Pedestal

On June 17, 1885, the French steamer Isère, arrived in New York with the crates holding the disassembled Statue of Liberty on board. New Yorkers displayed their new-found enthusiasm for the statue. Two hundred thousand people lined the docks and hundreds of boats put to sea to welcome the ship.

Liberty Island
Liberty Island is a federally owned island in Upper New York Bay in the United States. Its most notable feature is Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World). The island is an exclave of the New York City borough of Manhattan, surrounded by the waters of Jersey City, New Jersey.


Liberty island was known under various names.
  • Oyster Island: at the time of European colonization of the Hudson River estuary in the mid-17th century, much of the west side of Upper New York Bay contained large tidal flats which hosted vast oyster beds, a major source of food for the Lenape native people who lived there at the time. Several islands were not completely submerged at high tide. Three of them (later known as Bedloe's/Love/Liberty, Ellis, and Black Tom) were given the name Oyster Islands (oester eilanden) by the Dutch settlers of New Netherland, the first European colony in the Mid-Atlantic states. The oyster beds would remain a major source of food for nearly three centuries. Landfilling, started by the 1870s, particularly by the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Central Railroad of New Jersey, eventually obliterated the beds, engulfed one island and brought the shoreline much closer to the others.
  • Bedloe's Island: in 1753, the island is described in an advertisement (in which "Bedlow's" had become "Bedloe's", along with an alternate name of "Love Island") as being available for rental.
    • To be Let. Bedloe's Island, alias Love Island, together with the dwelling-house and lighthouse being finely situated for a tavern, where all kinds of garden stuff, poultry, etc., may be easily raised for the shipping outward bound, and from where any quantity of pickled oysters may be transported ; it abounds with English rabbits."
    • A plan of Bedloe's Island circa 1772 made in 1843 by the U.S. Engineer Department. A hospital, "dwelling house," and what seems to be a fenced garden is shown in the plan.
    • KD: Why were they drawing plans 71 years later? Where is the plan of 1772 made in 1772?

  • Liberty Island: has this name after an act of the United States Congress in 1956
Fort Wood
While work went on in France on the actual statue, fundraising efforts continued in the United States for the pedestal, including contests, benefits and exhibitions. Near the end, the leading New York newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer used his paper, the World, to raise the last necessary funds. Designed by the American architect Richard Morris Hunt, the statue’s pedestal was constructed inside the courtyard of Fort Wood, a fortress built for the War of 1812 and located on Bedloe’s Island, off the southern tip of Manhattan in Upper New York Bay.
A photograph of soldiers in front of the Garrison's Quarters on Bedloe's Island in 1864.



An illustration of a corporal of the guard at Fort Wood during the Civil War.



Statue Of Liberty Pedestal Sits Atop The Remains Of Fort Wood.

08-08 Statue Of Liberty Pedestal Sits Atop The Remains Of Fort Wood.jpg


Pedestal Construction
9 October 1883 and 22 August 1886
The engineer Charles P. Stone built a real little village in which the workers could live more or less independently without having to route them on site every day. The materials, themselves, had to be a constant supply, forcing the engineer to coordinate many trades. To manage all that Stone hired an energetic foreman, David H. King, who hired a large number of Italian maneuvers. They were housed directly on the island in a sort of little village created for the occasion, with many wooden huts and the few public elements necessary for life there. This rather thankless job, carried out in difficult conditions, was their tickets in the United States.
  • The base of the Statue of Liberty was made of concrete, a technique especially daring for its time it was recent. Until the buildings were built of brick or stone. The use of concrete has emerged for its strength, but especially for its implementation speed. This was particularly important since the fundraiser for the construction of the statue base was so slow that the statue, she was ready long before the first sod is given on Bedloe's Island! He had to catch up, hence the use of concrete.
  • The foundations were sunk into a deep pit over 16 meters (53 feet) in the shape of a truncated pyramid whose base was nearly 28m and the top side, at ground level, 20m. They contain metal I-shaped beams which are embedded in the walls of the base and back to the top of the pedestal. It is these beams that came to be grafted later wrought iron structure of Gustave Eiffel. Thus, the set makes only one block, foundations atop the statue. Imagine the accuracy of the technical disclosure in order to coordinate the two structures ... Especially that engineers were 6000Kms away. Under the bark of the granite pedestal façade lies a thick heart of massive concrete and steel beams on which the statue of the iron skeleton is attached.
  • The base itself was built as an extension of foundations, always concrete. This course is hollow, the walls are an average thickness of 2.50m as they are a little thicker at ground level at the top. Always at ground level, measuring 20m structure aside and reduced to arrive, on the feet of the statue, at just over 13m. The central part, accessible measure 8.25m wide. The total concrete architecture is the base of the Statue of Liberty built the largest building in the United States in the nineteenth century: 27,000 tons of concrete and stones, for a total of 12,200 cubic meters (13,300 cubic yards, to meet the English units). According to the time of words, the structure is so robust that they say that to overthrow the statue should reverse itself the island.
  • Once cast the pedestal was covered with granite stones from Connecticut to ensure her longevity. Thus exposed to the wind and the force of the spray, this set of concrete would be very vulnerable without effective protection. It has been said that these stones were of French origin. Some ensure that they come from the Plohernet career, Brittany, known for its solid granite. Others saw the extraction career in Ardèche, others in the Var, in the Jura, in the Ain, etc. There is a real fact that overrides the others: Why the engineers would seek hewn stone in France when they under the eyes, in the United States? The reality of facts is that these stones are from the Beattie career, on the island of Leetes (Connecticut). Transportation was provided by truck, from the quarry to the ocean, where a sailing vessel undertook transport to Bedloe's Island.
  • Construction of the pedestal of the statue of Liberty

The illustration below is from from 06.06.1885 Harper's Weekly. Is this a rooftop sticking out?



The pedestal construction ended April 22, 1886 with the laying of the last stone of the granite base. This stone was sealed leaving a space, a kind of box in which we put different objects belonging to the members present at that time, but also a copy of the Declaration of Independence of the United States. It happened during a ceremony chaired by William A. Brodie, a notorious Freemason, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York and organized on this occasion a Masonic ceremony entirely conventional. This ceremony was greatly criticized in subsequent years. Even today are under the base of the statue a portrait of Bartholdi, stamps, etc.


KD: I wanted to see what this Liberty Island looked like prior to any activities related to the Statue of Liberty. The pedestal construction started on 9 October 1883. As we all know, there were hundreds of thousands of photographs made prior to this date. They definitely had means at the time:
Yet, I miserably failed to find a single photograph of the island with Fort Wood still being present. What's up with that?

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