This is part of our series NYCurious, where we answer your questions about the city. Tweet or Facebook Message your queries to us at @amNewYork, with #NYCurious.
While the gleaming gold of the Statue of Liberty’s torch is a wonder to behold, no one can get inside and see what can only be breathtaking views of the city.
It can be disappointing to those who don’t know it’s off limits, but there’s a very good reason for it. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not closed off because of structural damage caused by years of wear and tear — it’s thanks to an act of sabotage by Germany on July 30, 1916, during World War I, according to the National Park Service (NPS).
An explosion at a munitions depot on a pier that connected Black Tom Island to Jersey City rocked the harbor at 2:08 a.m., killing several people and wounding hundreds. Ellis Island was evacuated, and windows as far as Times Square were blown out, according to new Jersey City University research.
Lady Liberty’s arm and torch were injured by flying debris.
Germany had been suffering financially and was angered that the U.S. was aiding the British and French with ammunition, so it attacked.
When the NPS did renovations in 1984, it decided to replace the torch because the arm’s supporting structure had corroded from rain that fell through the torch’s amber-colored windows. The new torch is made of unbroken copper that is covered in 24-karat gold leaf.
NPS staff still climb a narrow 40-foot ladder to maintain the 16 floodlights that light the torch.
Access to the torch was never reopened, but you can see what it’d be like to stand in it with the Statue of Liberty torch live webcam. You also can get a close-up view of the original torch inside the pedestal lobby.
For those who don’t know, the torch symbolizes enlightenment, lighting the way to freedom by showing the path to Liberty, according to the NPS.
While not as high up and as shiny as the torch, visitors can visit the crown if they make a reservation in advance at statuecruises.com.
Today, the land that was Black Tom Island is a part of Liberty State Park. A plaque commemorating the explosion sits on its site inside a circle of American flags.