Q&A on the News

Q: Do the points of the stars at the base of the Statue of Liberty align to true directions? And is there a symbolic significance?


A: The base is a fort that was left from the War of 1812, Michael B. Shaver, supervisory park ranger for the National Park Service at the Statue of Liberty National Monument, told Q&A on the News. Named after Lt. Eleazer Wood, Fort Wood was constructed as part of a system of eight forts in New York harbor. It would have been the first of the forts to be encountered by enemy ships, Shaver wrote in an email.

“There is no symbolic significance to the angles, but a practical one,” he wrote.

Fort Wood’s designer, Col. Jonathan Williams, was chief engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, superintendent of U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a serious student of French fortification construction, Shaver wrote. Williams designed, and with the help of his West Point cadets, like Wood, supervised the construction of those eight forts of various shapes: three round-shaped ones, two star-shaped, two half-moon and arrowhead shape.

By the 1870s, Fort Wood was no longer an effective defender of New York harbor, but for the statue’s designer, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, it was the ideal location to place the statue, Shaver wrote.

“The points of Fort Wood, now the base of the Statue of Liberty do not align along any cardinal directions; it is in alignment with the oval-shape island which sits diagonally, northwest to the southeast, in the harbor,” he wrote. “So like the statue that was placed inside it in 1886, the fort also faced the entrance to the harbor. Both fort and statue, in their day, providing their own versions of a warm welcome to those sailing into upper bay of New York harbor.”

Q&A on the News runs Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Fast Copy News Service wrote this column. Do you have a question? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).