WHEN I LED a tour for a mother and her 3-year-old daughter along Alki Beach a few years back, we stopped at the Statue of Liberty replica. I asked the girl to look up and tell me what she thought the statue was raising aloft in her right hand. Her innocent, timeless response: “An ice cream cone!”
The next question was tougher: What was the statue cradling in her left arm? “A phone?”
Of course, the correct answers are a flaming torch and a tablet, the latter inscribed with the Declaration of Independence date of July 4, 1776.
The replica, in two renditions over the years, has prompted countless moments, teachable and otherwise, ever since 200 of the 8½-foot-tall miniatures — modeled on the 151-foot, 1886 original in New York Harbor — were erected across the country by the Boy Scouts of America following World War II. The patriotic campaign was dubbed, “Strengthening the Arm of Liberty.”
At Alki, after filling a 15-block-long parade, 2,000 Scouts dedicated a water-facing replica along the park’s promenade on Feb. 23, 1952. This Wednesday marks its 70th anniversary.
Weather and dispiriting crime took a toll. By climbing her ridged foundation, vandals repeatedly yanked off Lady Liberty’s right arm, flame and seven-point crown. In 1975, she even was knocked off her base.
Further heartache surfaced in 2000, when, as scheduled, a 1952 time capsule of thousands of Scout names and other ephemera in the base was opened, but water had destroyed much of its contents.
The replica assumed new poignancy after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. For days, locals congregated at its base, inscribing 1,000 paper bags that held tealight candles and lined the Alki promenade as luminarias. Messages ranged from anger (“You can hide, you cowards, but we will find you”) to hope (“We have really only one thing in common: freedom to believe what we want, in peace”). The Southwest Seattle Historical Society preserved and later displayed the bags annually.
A new replica arose on the old base in 2007 and, thanks to a campaign funded by inscribed bricks, was rededicated in 2008 on a sheer, lighthouse-themed base in a redesigned plaza. The battered earlier version was moved to the historical society’s nearby Log House Museum.
In 2009, fueled partly by children’s items, the historical society and the Alki Community Council buried a better-protected time capsule, to be opened in 2059, near the new replica’s base.
Only 100 of the replicas still stand nationwide. With liberty’s hard truths and stern ideals buffeted by today’s tyrannical forces, those visiting the Alki statue just might rediscover a measure of honest inspiration.
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