Why can't we go up the Statue of Liberty's torch?

While the crown of the Statue of Liberty offers striking views of New York City, many wonder why they can't climb all the way up to her golden torch.

The average person will tell you the answer is simple: structural damage caused by years of wear and tear. In reality, however, the reason we will never peer out at New York Harbor from Lady Liberty's torch dates all the way back to one fateful event, according to the National Park Service: An act of sabotage by Germany on July 30, 1916, during World War I.

At 2:08 a.m., an explosion at a major munitions depot on a pier connecting Black Tom Island with Jersey City rocked the harbor, killing several people, injuring hundreds, evacuating Ellis Island and blowing out windows as far as Times Square, according to New Jersey City University research.

Lady Liberty (particularly her arm and torch) was injured by flying debris from the event, later found to be an act of sabotage by German spies. Germany had been suffering financially and was up in arms that the U.S. was aiding the British and French with ammunition.

It wasn't until renovations in 1984 that the arm was repaired and the torch, the first part of the statue built in 1876, was replaced with a new version made of copper and covered in 24 karat gold leaf, the NPS says. Access to the torch was never re-opened, but 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. The original torch is on display in the pedestal lobby.


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