Interest Growing in Restoring Mackinac Island’s Statue of Liberty Replica
Local interest to help restore the Statue of Liberty replica at Mackinac Island State Harbor is beginning to grow. To help restore the statue, American Legion Post 299 and volunteers plan to start a citizen drive for donations to pay for repairs, and will solicit support from organizations across Michigan.
The statue, made of sheet copper, is deteriorating and the seven points of the statue’s crown have broken off. The stone pedestal is weathered.
Clark Bloswick noticed the deteriorating condition of the statue while photographing scenic views last winter. From a distance, it’s difficult to tell that the damaged statue is a smaller replica of the icon in New York City.
“I just took a good look at it,” Mr. Bloswick said, “and I noticed that it wasn’t in very good condition. It’s actually falling apart.”
The statue is one of 200 donated by the Boy Scouts of America in 1950 to 39 states. The organization celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1950 with the theme, “Strengthen the Arm of Liberty.” Kansas City businessmen J.P. Whitaker, Scout Commissioner of the Kansas City Area Council at the time, spearheaded the Statue of Liberty project in the spirit of the theme.
Friedley-Voshardt Company in Chicago manufactured the replicas of Lady Liberty and distributed them throughout the country. Each copper statue stands eight feet, four inches tall, weighs 290 pounds, and cost $350 to make. Some states, like Colorado and Kansas, have more than 20 of the statues.
The statue that watches over the harbor on Mackinac Island is the only replica donated to the state of Michigan. The Scenic Trails Council dedicated it Sunday, May 28, 1950, at 11:30 a.m. as a gift to Michigan.
After discovering the damage, Mr. Bloswick contacted American Legion members to help restore the statue. The veterans gather at the statue every five years for its Patriot Days ceremony, an annual remembrance of September 11 that takes place at various locations around Mackinac Island.
“I’d like to make this a statewide program, if possible,” said Post Commander Paul Wandrie. “This is the only statute that the State of Michigan has, and I think everybody would be interested in getting involved.”
The fundraising project has just begun, although it has yet to be determined how the statue will be restored, or at what cost.
A statue recast in bronze and moved would be the best outcome, in Mr. Bloswick’s opinion.
“It would be recast out of bronze. I think the material they have there you can’t save, but then you move it closer to town and put it in a more central location by the docks,” Mr. Bloswick said. “It would look really nice right out in the middle. I think a lot of people don’t even see it where it’s at.”
Mr. Bloswick is trying to attract state funds by talking with legislators.
The first step is to determine ownership, and clearly mark out responsibilities of completing the project. The statue currently sits on state property, and the Department of Natural Resources oversees jurisdiction of the state-operated marina. Mr. Wandrie will meet July 20 with the representatives of the state agency to discuss legalities of the project.
“Basically, they don’t want us to take it down, get half of it done, and try to get it back to them,” Mr. Wandrie said. “But I’m not going to take anything down until we have the money in hand.”
The department has a number of basic questions to resolve, but Rich Hill, the Straits district supervisor with the Parks and Recreation Division of the DNR, said, in general, the DNR is in support of the project.
“We’re interested in looking at the options,” said Mr. Hill. “We would look to facilitate it and work with the interested groups to make the repairs and upgrades, but all our funding resources are restricted resources.”
The department also wants to make sure Boy Scouts of America agrees with the project. Gordon Graham, a spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America in the region, said the scouts would be willing to support the project, although they are unsure whether they can support it financially. Mr. Graham wants to secure a letter of support for Mr. Wandrie and Mr. Bloswick, which will also explain that the Boy Scouts donated the statue to the state of Michigan, and do not claim ownership.
Those who are interested in supporting the project may send donations to the American Legion Post 299, P.O. Box 1518, Mackinac Island, MI, 49757.