July 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

Lady Liberty on Mackinac Island gets a makeover

American Legion Post 299 had added this plaque to the new pedestal for Mackinac Island's Statue of Liberty replica. (Paul Wandrie photo)

Mackinac Island’s Lady Liberty never looked so good.

And Thursday, the 64-year-old Statue of Liberty replica is the guest of honor at a celebration marking her return from a two-year makeover — and just in time for the Fourth of July.

“She looks great,” said Paul Wandrie, commander of Mackinac Island’s American Legion Post 299. “We’re so excited to be able to see the statue back up there.”

The post started the campaign to refurbish the statue in fall 2012 to raise more than $60,000 to give the island’s local symbol of American freedom a much-needed facelift. It also organized the statue’s rededication ceremony at 6 p.m. at the Mackinac Island State Harbor’s marina.

Wandrie said post members initially intended to hold the event on the Fourth of July, but changed it to make sure the event would get the most attendance.

Tim Hygh, executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau, said the statue is a great addition to the island’s patriotic and historical attractions held over the summer.

Hygh said the tourism bureau has been promoting the rededication ceremony.

“Everyone on the island is super stoked,” he said. “Something about the American flag and Mackinac Island just goes together.

“We love (what they’ve done with the statue) and we’re looking forward to as many people as possible coming up to see it.”

The real Statue of Liberty, which stands in New York Harbor, is 151 feet tall — more than twice that high when its pedestal is included — and weighs more than 150 tons.

Mackinac Island’s version is about 8˝ feet tall and weighs about 300 pounds.

It’s also one of about 200 such sculptures donated by the Boy Scouts of America to communities in 39 states in 1950 to mark the group’s 40th anniversary.

All of the sculptures were made by a Chicago company using a metalworking technique called repoussé, in which metal is shaped by hammering it over a form. The real Statue of Liberty was made using the same technique.

More than six decades of exposure to the elements on Mackinac Island took a toll on Lady Liberty’s little sister.

Donations to restore the statue came in from all over, Wandrie said, after a story in The Detroit News last year, other media reports and word of mouth. A number of fundraisers were also held, Wandrie said.

“For a while there, we’d go over the books and say ‘Gosh, are we ever going to see this happen?’ ” he said.

After all the bills have been paid for the statue’s restoration and relocation, the post expects a few thousand dollars to be left over, Wandrie said. The money will be used to start a maintenance fund for the statue that will cover any repairs or cleaning, he said.

The post hasn’t decided if it will need to continue fundraising, but it hasn’t ruled it out, Wandrie said.

Detroit art conservator Giorgio Gikas and his company, Venus Bronze Works Inc., were hired to restore seven missing points of the statue’s crown, refreshing her dented and corroded copper skin and repairing her July Fourth tablet, which was falling apart. He also replaced the steel armature, the statue’s framework, with a bronze one.

The entire project took about about five months to complete, Gikas said.

Locally, he’s known for refurbishing the Spirit of Detroit, removing a splatter of white paint from the Joe Louis fist and restoring the bronze horses pulling the chariot on top of the Wayne County Building.

He’s also restored the statue of the Rev. Jacques Marquette that stands in front of Fort Mackinac and is working on the RoboCop statute.

Gikas said he plans to attend Thurday’s statue dedication ceremony.

“I think he did a wonderful job,” Wandrie said. “She sits on that pedestal, gleaming.”

Once Gikas finished, the statue was brought back to the island in June and set on a new stone, star-shaped pedestal the American Legion post had built.

Her new home is about 100 feet west of her original location, which was off Huron Street near the marina.

She’s now centered in the marina and more visible to the public, where hopefully people will enjoy looking at her, Wandrie said.

“You know, maybe they’ll teach their children a little about the history of the real statue,” he said.

cramirez@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2058

Mackinac Island's Statue of Liberty replica has been installed at a site ... (Paul Wandrie photo)