Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation

  • Arts & Culture
  • 1982

The Statue of Liberty may be the best known monument in the world, and the adjoining Ellis Island immigration halls are among America’s most historic sites. Both venues have been restored and revamped for mass visitation entirely by private philanthropy. In 1982, as the centennial of the statue approached, President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca, then chairman of Chrysler Corporation, to lead a private-sector effort to fund restoration and preservation; the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation was born. Almost 1,000 laborers soon went to work, and the internal structure of the statue was rebuilt, the deteriorated torch replaced, an elevator installed, and a public exhibit created in the pedestal base. The preserved monument reopened to the public on July Fourth weekend, 1986. The foundation then went to work saving the badly deteriorated Ellis Island structures where millions of American families first touched U.S. soil. Five buildings were saved and turned into informative exhibits, and the island opened to visitors in 1990, two years ahead of schedule. In 1993, the foundation created a permanent endowment to fund enhancements of the two sites for years to come; so far, more than 200 projects have been carried out with endowment proceeds. The American people have now contributed more than $600 million in voluntary contributions to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, allowing all this work to be done without any government funds. Since opening in 1990, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum has welcomed 40 million visitors, and the Statue of Liberty hosts 4 million guests every year.

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