Above: The arm of the Statue of Liberty stood solitary in Madison Square for six years, from 1876 to 1882.
Two hundred years ago today, Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc was born in Paris. As the godfather of historical restoration, Viollet-le-Duc would rescue countless medieval structures from decay, helping to preserve the spirit of French architecture through such buildings as Notre-Dame and Mont Sant-Michel.
But it’s through his association with his student Frédéric Bartholdi that Viollet-le-Duc would make his mark in America, as the original designer of the Statue of Liberty‘s brick-laden skeleton. Viollet-le-Duc would work with Bartholdi in creating both the head and the arm, parts that would then travel to the United States to raise funds for the completed structure.
In particular, the arm and torch would be displayed in the northwest corner of Madison Square Park, from 1876 to 1882. On July 4th, 1876, a gigantic painting by Jean-Baptiste Lavastre of the completed statue was displayed on a building across the street from the arm.
Below: The arm would also make its way to the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.
Sadly, Viollet-le-Duc would never again see these portions of the statue, as he died in 1879 before the entire structure was completely built. Bartholdi then turned to another architect to complete the work — Gustave Eiffel. It’s Eiffel’s redesigned interior that supports the statue today.
In 1889, three years after the Statue of Liberty finally made its home in New York harbor, Eiffel debuted his better known work — the Eiffel Tower — at the Paris World’s Fair.
But the somewhat radical theories of restoration espoused by Viollet-le-Duc would inspire American architects and inform the direction of modern historical preservation.