Possibly the most recognized symbol of America to generations of people fleeing toward freedom, the Statue of Liberty is none the less the first and undisputedly the greatest lighthouse on the Hudson River. A beacon not just to emigrants and travelers, the Statue as a lighthouse marks the entrance to the inner harbor of New York and warns ships away from the rocky shoals of the western harbor.
Standing 305 feet above the harbor, the great torch of Lady Liberty heralds a welcome to man and ship alike, showing the way to the promise of harbor and safety. Lady Liberty’s torch can be seen from well beyond the Verizano Narrows, the mouth of New York harbor, well out to sea.
Long forgotten is the fact that the Statue of Liberty was once a lighthouse. Congress accepted France’s monumental gift as work of art and a beacon for New York harbor in 1877. After Liberty’s dedication and unveiling in 1886, President Cleveland appointed the US Light-House Board to be its caretaker. Engineers set up a steam dynamo plant on Bedloe’s Island and fourteen arc lamps, nine in the torch and five others positioned strategically below at the angles of Fort Wood. Even so, the dimness of the lighting was little help to vessels entering the harbor and efforts were made to increase the illumination. In 1897 , an oil-generating engine was installed to power the lights, but they were still insufficient, and the Liberty Lighthouse closed in 1902. Today, visitors to Liberty Island can learn more about the old Liberty Lighthouse from park rangers.
The Statue of Liberty was declared a national monument by Presidential proclamation on October 15, 1924, the monument boundaries being set at the outer edge of old Fort Wood. The War Department continued to administer the entire island until, in 1933, again by Presidential proclamation, the Statue of Liberty National Monument was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, the Army retaining the remainder of the island as a military post.
In 1937, another Presidential proclamation declared the Army Post abandoned and jurisdiction of the entire island passed to the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.
While Bedloe’s Island, with an area of approximately 12 acres, is located in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor, it is geographically in the territorial waters of New Jersey. The island itself above the mean low-water mark is in New York State, pursuant to an interstate compact entered into by New Jersey and New York in 1834. The State of New Jersey retains the riparian rights to all the submerged land surrounding the statue and extending eastward to the normal interstate boundary line at the middle of the Hudson River Channel.
The actual location of Bedloe’s Island is approximately three-eighths land miles offshore from Jersey City, N. J., which is the source of telephone, power, and water services. It is about 1-5/8 land miles from the Battery, at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, New York City. Transportation and mail services are provided by boat from the Battery. At present a privately owned ferry line is operating under contract with the United States Government.
Visiting the Lighthouse
Visiting the Statue of Liberty is extremely easy. You can board a ferry at Battery Park in New York City or at the Central Railroad Terminal located at the north end of Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Fare is charged for the trip and access to both the Status of Liberty Park and Ellis Island. Liberty Island is open from 9:30am until 5pm every day except Christmas.
The ferry ticket office closes prior to park’s closing. Due to the park’s security procedures please allow for ample time in your visitation plans. Adult Ticket: $10.00, Senior (62 and over): $8.00, Child (4-12): $4.00, Under 4:Free.
Liberty Island, the statue and its base were closed immediately after the events across the harbor of September 11, 2001. On December 20, 2001 Liberty Island was reopened to the public for visits, but the statue and museums located in the base remain closed. Visitors to the island can tour the grounds and outdoor exhibits and take free scheduled tours guided by Park Rangers. The 45 minute tours explain the conception, construction, and restoration of one of the world’s greatest monuments. Island history and harbor environs and answers to any question you may have are covered by our Stetson-wearing staff. Schedule of offerings posted at Information Center.