Statue Of Liberty’s Old Flame May Barnstorm the Nation
NEW YORK (AP) _ The Statue of Liberty’s weatherbeaten old flame may be sent out on a national tour to raise money for the statue’s restoration, although Park Service officials warn that it may be too fragile to travel.
The National Park Service and the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation are studying proposals that would send the flame, which was removed from the statue’s right arm last year to be replaced, to state fairs, race tracks, amusement parks and special events across the country.
But Park Service officials are concerned that the flame might not hold up.
″Our concerns are twofold: that it be protected from physical damage during moving, and from people″ who might damage it, said Charles Clapper, assistant regional commissioner of the Park Service.
How fragile is the flame? ″It’s made of copper stripwork and yellow cathedral glass. That tells the whole story,″ said Henning Nielsen, spokesman for the foundation.
″It’s old, and it wasn’t designed to be moved around on a truck or on a plane,″ Clapper said. ″When it was moved to California (in January for the Tournament of Roses Parade) a couple of pieces of glass were broken. To me, that says it’s pretty fragile.″
Any tour would serve to raise money for the $230 million restoration of the statue and the Ellis Island immigration station in New York Harbor. ″That’s the only reason we’re even considering″ approval of such a tour, said Clapper.
Last weekend the flame appeared at the Travers Stakes horse race in Saratoga, N.Y. It was floated up the Hudson River by barge to Albany, where it was transferred onto a flat-bed truck and driven to the track.
The flame was protected en route by park rangers and state troopers.
It’s not the first time the flame has traveled since it was shipped over as a gift from France. It appeared atop Liberty’s right arm at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. The arm and torch later were displayed in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park before the statue was assembled on its island in the harbor.
William Fugazy, chairman of the state Statue of Liberty Commission, said that despite Park Service’s worries about the flame’s fragility, ″our congressmen will see to it that (a tour) is done.″
He said his plans for a state tour, in which the flame would ride on a barge along the Hudson River and the Erie Canal, had the support of Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., and Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, who is chairman of the national foundation.
Fugazy said there had been requests for the flame at ″all kinds of events,″ including horse races and state fairs. ″Everyone wants the flame,″ he said. ″Disney World wants it. (Sports promoter) Sonny Werblin wants it. (New Jersey Gov.) Tom Kean wants it.″
Clapper said any tour probably would begin this fall, because the flame ″absolutely would have to be back May 15″ for the opening of a new immigration museum in the base of the Statue of Liberty.