On a few occasions over the last four years, I’ve written a blog post asking interested persons to donate to a certain project that is dear not only to my heart, but to the hearts of all of us on Mackinac Island. Tonight I can expand that to include the entire state of Michigan and those in other states who love the Island and all of her treasures.
On Friday night Ted and I (and many, many other folks) attended a fish fry at the Mustang Lounge that was a fund raiser for the renovation and relocation of the Mackinac Island Statue of Liberty Replica that has occupied a space on the grounds of our marina since its dedication in 1950.
For those of you who don’t know the story behind why we have the replica on the Island, here’s a bit of history:
In the early ’50s, the Boy Scouts of America marked its 40th anniversary, which had the theme “Strengthen the Arm of Liberty.”
As part of the celebration, the organization donated more than 200 copper replicas of the Statue of Liberty to communities in 39 states, as well as some U.S. territories. The project was the idea of Jack Whitaker, Scout Commissioner of the Kansas City Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The exact reason the Statue was placed on Mackinac Island is unknown, but one can presume it was because of the Scout Troops that play a large part at Fort Mackinac exhibits during the summer season. The Island replica was dedicated on May 28, 1950.
Each of the statues is about 8 1/2 feet tall — without a pedestal — weighs about 300 pounds and was made by a Chicago company.
Their big sister, who stands in New York harbor, is more than 305 feet tall from the ground to the top of her torch and weighs more than 150 tons.
Over the years, most of the replicas had been forgotten and had fallen into disrepair over the decades.
That changed in the late ’90s when a Boy Scout troop in Cheyenne, Wyoming started a national search to find the remaining statues and created a record for them. The troop set up an online registry for the statues at www.cheyennetroop101.org/liberty and invited people to submit information and photos about the replicas.
The Statue of Liberty Replica on Mackinac Island has been used every fifth year to commemorate the attacks on 9/11/2001, and the Patriot Day Services were conducted at that location in 2006 and 2011.
The replica has withstood 62 years of our harsh northern Michigan winters and is now in need of the kind of repair work only a specialist can handle – dents in the copper skin, seams that need to be ground out or filled in, and the spikes on her crown need to be replaced. Masons, excavating crews and landscapers will also need be involved.
American Legion post 299 on Mackinac Island wants to fix the statue and bring it back to its original form. Post 299 Commander Paul Waundrie, said, “We are calling our drive to repair and relocate this statue, the ‘Save Our Statue’ or ‘S.O.S.’ Project.” The City of Mackinac Island is also supporting the project.
Moving the statue and centering it approximately 100 feet west from where she is currently located will give her a more prominent location to be seen by people entering the harbor, and she will be more easily seen from the roadway.
Waundrie said, “With the help of citizens, businesses, etc., that visit and are located here, we can accomplish this. We don’t have a timeline for completing this project; however, every year we wait to do this the price will increase. We are in the process of placing our project onto television news programs and newspapers around the State of Michigan. We are enlisting the help of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, we are asking for donations from Veteran Service Organizations and anyone else that would like to help. This project can be completed by ‘We the People’. The cost presently is $60,880.18, but we will need additional monies to pay for another plaque and other unforeseen costs that could be generated by the project. Just $1.00 from 60,000 plus people will make this happen. We are proud to be a part of this project and we hope you will be also.”
Wandrie said he believes Mackinac Island’s replica is the only one of its kind in Michigan.
“We’ve checked into it and it’s the only one in Michigan as far as we know,” he said. “It’s a historic part of Mackinac Island and the state of Michigan. It’s been here for 62 years, and we would love to be able to show it as it was when it first came to the island.”
If you’d be interested in participating in this patriotic cause, donations can be sent to: American Legion Post 299, P.O. Box 1518, Mackinac Island, MI 49757. Or, if you’re on the Island and would like to donate in person, that can be done at the DPW Office on the 2nd floor of the Community Hall (see Bruce or Ellen). Checks should be made payable to American Legion Post #299.
At this time in our nation’s history, when we seem to be losing too many of our country’s symbols of freedom, it seems very important to take on this task of refurbishing this replica of America’s Lady Liberty.