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Originally published Tuesday, October 17, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Lady Liberty will make strong comeback on Alki

At about 7 ½ feet from base to torch, Seattle's Statue of Liberty at Alki Beach is only 5 percent the height of the real thing. It's not even that...

Seattle Times staff reporter

At about 7 ½ feet from base to torch, Seattle's Statue of Liberty at Alki Beach is only 5 percent the height of the real thing.

It's not even that accurate a rendering, say those in charge of saving this icon that seems to surprise strollers seeing it for the first time.

"The face looks more like a child than the original statue," said Adam Sheridan, executive director of the nonprofit Northwest Programs for the Arts. Dedicated in 1952, Seattle's Lady Liberty has become dilapidated because of the salt water, wind and sand — and repeated vandalism.

So in July it was removed from the beach. And right now, at a Tacoma foundry, a new replica, made from a mold of the old replica, is being welded together.

Sometime in May, said Sheridan, whose group is in charge of the statue project, it'll be dedicated and visitors will once again have a place to pose for photographs.

A miniature Statue of Liberty ended up on Alki Beach because of a Scouts project called "Strengthening the Arm of Liberty."

In the early 1950s, the group placed 200 of the replicas in cities across the country.

"It was to stimulate patriotic fervor. It's part of that Scouts oath, 'God and Country,' " remembered John Kelly, 85, of West Seattle. He was a Sea Scout leader and was at the 1952 dedication ceremony.

According to the Log House Museum, run by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, ceremonies at the beach included "a parade of over 2,000 Scouts which stretched 15 blocks along the beach."

On Sept. 11, 2001, the statue instinctively drew Seattleites in mourning.

During the days following the tragedy, an American flag was hung from the arm holding the torch, and smaller flags were left around the statue, as well as cards, flowers and items such as a toy fire chief's helmet to honor New York City firefighters.

But over the years, the statue also has made news not for how it served as a gathering point, but for the damage that's been done to it.

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Vandals have torn off its crown. They have ripped off its torch. They have ripped the torch and the arm holding it. On July 23, 1975, vandals using a rope tied to a car pulled the statue from its base.

"It got to a point you couldn't fix it any longer. The repairs were a valiant attempt, but it was basically glued back together," said Sheridan. "A lot of the parts like the torch didn't line up anymore."

In 2004, Northwest Programs for the Arts (www.northwestarts.org) launched a "donate-a-brick" campaign in which donors paid from $100 to $500 to have their names or messages carved onto bricks that would be laid around the foundation of a new statue.

Meanwhile, at The Bronze Works in Tacoma, the old statue sits, waiting to eventually be displayed indoors at the Log House, while work continues on its stronger replacement.

"The old statue was constructed of stamped copper sheet — very thin copper — over a frame, and was later filled with plaster and concrete. The new sculpture is cast bronze about a quarter-inch thick, and will weigh about 700 pounds," said Kevin Keating, manager of the foundry.

"Somebody ripping off the arm? That's not going to occur. Not only is the arm strong but it also has stainless-steel reinforcing."

It might not be quite the image one would want to associate with this new replica of the Statue of Liberty, but Keating drew an analogy to that giant statue of Saddam Hussein that was toppled when U.S. troops conquered Baghdad.

"If you remember that image on TV, they had a chain hooked to a tank and tried to pull it down," said Keating. "Eventually, they were able to tear it down, but it took a lot of work, even using a tank."

Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or elacitis@seattletimes.com

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