Today in History: The Statue of Liberty Arrives in New York Harbor and its Syracuse Connection

On this Day in 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived to the United States in pieces. Thousands of immigrants flooded the U.S. at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, with many of them eventually settling in Onondaga County. But, there’s more of a connection to this important landmark than you may realize, though it occurred long after immigrants stopped passing through.

Many are familiar with the Heaphy Tin Man and the family who ran Heaphy’s throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. Locals remember the Heaphy Tin Man standing watch over their shop on Geddes Street. However, today, we’re remembering the contribution of Dennis Heaphy on the Statue of Liberty during its late 1990s restoration.

Here’s the story from WRVO Public Media in 2012:

“In 1999, Heaphy came down to New York City with his brother and visited the Statue of Liberty for the first time.

‘We were both raised in the tinsmithing business. And we’re inside the statue and we’re looking up at all the intricacies of her robe. And from a tinsmithing standpoint, it’s fascinating.’

Two months later, Heaphy had gotten a job through friends, turning a room at the Ellis Island museum into a theatre.

‘The same people who oversee the Island, oversee the statue, and so one day I asked, ‘What do I have to do to become the resident tin smith for the statue?’ And I’m sure he’s going to laugh in my face. Two weeks later, he wants me to repair the windows in the crown.’

At that time, tourists were allowed up into the statue. So that made it nearly impossible for Heaphy to get any work done. His solution? Spend the night.

‘I just worked till I couldn’t work anymore. Used my Carhart and you’re laying up there and the statue is moving back and forth and you really only notice it when you try to be still.’

Heaphy says he’s the only person to have ever slept up there.

Today, Heaphy is still involved in the ongoing restoration of the Statue and Ellis Island facilities, he does some consulting and the occasional tin-smithing job.”