A Tribute to Lady Liberty
As guests and visitors of the Waldorf Astoria ascend our Park Avenue steps and proceed to our Main Lobby, a gilded Statue of Liberty is revealed atop our historic clock. This centerpiece, representative of the liberty and man’s spirit of achievement, symbolizes qualities found throughout the Waldorf Astoria. For over a century, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and Lady Liberty have welcomed millions of visitors to New York and as we approach the July 4th holiday weekend, the acknowledgement of our connection with Lady Liberty is worth sharing.
Contrary to legend, Lady Liberty was not a gift from the French government to the American government. Rather, its sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, raised the money from private subscriptions in both countries, America and France. France paid for the statue itself while we paid for the pedestal. Our federal government provided Bedloe’s Island. It took roughly two years for the statue to be completed but by October of 1886, Lady Liberty was mounted on what today is known as Liberty Island.
In 1902 another (smaller) Statue of Liberty was given as a gift from France. Col. John Jacob Astor IV, co-creator of the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel on 5th Avenue, received the statue to commemorate the gracious hospitality his hotel had given the people of France since 1897. He positioned the gift atop the bronze clock. This gesture caused consternation for the Brits and Queen Victoria. The clock itself, with its Westminster chimes, Astor had purchased subsequent to its display at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. As Anglophiles will know, relations with the French were not warm at the time.
By the early 1980s, Lady Liberty was in need of a massive “make-over”. Her infrastructure and her exterior façade required a series of restorative metallurgical work in order for her to continue standing tall on the Hudson. From 1984-1986, she underwent a huge restorative project forcing her to be covered in scaffolding. Again, a collection of private and public fundraising efforts were implemented. Team members of the Waldorf Astoria helped raise over $20,000 and presented these proceeds to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, chaired by Lee Iacocca of the Chrysler Company, at the luncheon gala held on this day, July 3rd, in 1986.
In any country or region of the world, the Statue of Liberty and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel are recognized as New York icons. The Statue of Liberty serves as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to all who see her; The Waldorf Astoria is proud to share this commonality by continuing our tradition of providing True Waldorf Service and international friendship to our guests. From all of us at the Waldorf Astoria New York – Have a Happy and Healthy July 4th Weekend!
For more information, please visit the archive website at http://www.waldorfarchive.org!
Erin Allsop, Archivist of The Waldorf Astoria New York
Erin is a graduate student in the Masters program of Library and Information Science at CUNY – Queens College, where she is focusing her studies on Archival Management and Preservation. You may contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquiries or questions you may have.