Liberty Island

Aerial view of Liberty Island.
  • Liberty Island is part of New York State, in the United States of America.
  • It is home to the iconic Statue of Liberty.
  • The island is mainly a national park, and has a total area of just under 15 acres.

One of the most iconic symbols of America is the Statue of Liberty, located in the state of New York. The majestic sculpture is situated just off the coast of Manhattan, on a small island known as Liberty Island, where Lady Liberty - more technically known as Liberty Enlightening the World or La Liberté éclairant le monde stands tall over the American people.

History

Liberty Island

Tourists walking around the entrance of the Statue of Liberty in Liberty Island. Editorial credit: Mirko Chianucci / Shutterstock.com

The island itself has had several names throughout history. Originally, its first known name was Minnissais, meaning lesser island, and was so named by the Delaware Indians. Early colonists decided to give it another name, and dubbed it the Great Oyster. Later, the name was changed again to Bedloe, after a merchant who purchased the island in the 1660s. The island remained under his ownership until 1758, when it was acquired by the city of New York. This area also became important in battle when Fort Wood was built as part of the war of 1812. 

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated to the American people by the French in 1886, and was situated on the island then called Bedloe’s Island. The statute alone was considered a national monument as of 1924, and the monument was listed under the National Park Service in 1933.  In 1937 the structure and island both became part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, but it was not until 1956 that the island itself was renamed Liberty Island, because of the presence of the iconic statue. By 1966 the island was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, under the wider area of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, Ellis Island and Liberty

Island Geography

Liberty Island
A map showing the location of the Statue of Liberty.

The island is rather small in size, and has a total area of just under 15 acres. This piece of land is part of New York State, and is in the Upper New York Bay, and is part of the borough of Manhattan. The waters of the bay include state lines for Hudson County, Jersey city and New Jersey. Its location is such that although it is considered part of New York state, it is actually an exclave within the state (waters) of New Jersey. This confusion of state property is largely due to its proximity to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, as it is only 600 or so meters from the shore. Alternatively, the island is some 2.6 kilometers from lower Manhattan. 

Visiting And Transportation

Liberty Island
Cruise with passengers at the Libery Island jetty. Editorial credit: sanya51 / Shutterstock.com

The island is very popular with visitors and tourists, but can only be reached via ferry. Ferries run from Liberty State Park on the Jersey City side, or The Battery in Lower Manhattan, docking on the southwest end of the island. Once there, entrance to the island, a state park, is free. 

The Island Park And Museum

Liberty Island
The museum on Liberty Island. Editorial credit: Let Go Media / Shutterstock.com

Liberty Island not only contains the statue, but also a state park and museum. This free museum offers details of the history and story of the Statue of Liberty, and also houses the original torch that she once held, which has since been replaced. Both the statue and the museum serve as symbols of freedom and honour immigration and the American Dream of moving to a new country to seek a better life. The park, and the monument statue are so popular as a tourist attraction, that the island sees some 3.5 million visitors each year. Due to the historical and symbolic significance of Lady Liberty, security is extensive for all guests wishing to board a ferry to the island. Once there, tours of the park, museum and statue can be taken, including climbing the 354 steps to the lady’s crown. From there, visitors can look out over the bay and out towards Manhattan, taking in the iconic view of New York. 

Symbolism

Statue of Liberty
View of the Statue of Liberty from a helicopter.

Though small in size, Liberty Island holds great significance in American culture, as well as symbolically worldwide. Serving as a gesture of peace between France and the United States of America, Liberty Enlightening the World has become a symbol of the freedom, peace, liberty and justice on which the United States was founded, and aims to live by. It is both inherently american, and a testament to the many immigrants who came to that free land to chase their dreams and build a new life in America. 

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