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Photo credit: Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan asked Lee Iacocca, then Chairman of Chrysler Corporation, to head a private sector effort to raise funds for the restoration and preservation of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (SOLEIF) was founded.
The Foundation's fundraising drive sparked a dramatic response. The American people contributed more than $700 million (and counting!) to the repair, restoration, and maintenance of these two great monuments to freedom. All funds for the Foundation's projects have come from the American people — no government funds have been used.
The Foundation, working with its public partner, the National Park Service, U. S. Department of the Interior, first tackled the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. After almost a century, weather, pollution, and sightseeing had left Lady Liberty's torch in need of replacement and her crown's rays in need of strengthening. An army of architects, historians, engineers, and almost 1,000 laborers embarked on the project — which also involved the installation of new elevators and an informative exhibit in the Statue's base.
July 4th weekend, 1986, saw a gala four-day event celebrating the restoration. Fireworks filled the night skies; tall ships flocked the Harbor. "Liberty Weekend," attended by President Reagan and President Francois Mitterand of France, was broadcast to 1.5 billion people in 51 countries. The Foundation, the National Park Service, and the American people had launched the most successful public-private partnership in the history of the United States.
The Foundation then turned its attention to the restoration of Ellis Island — the largest historical restoration in the history of the United States. Ellis Island, our most potent symbol of the American immigrant experience, had become sadly deteriorated. Again, the American people responded with passion and generosity.
When the Island opened in September of 1990 — two years ahead of schedule — it unveiled the world-class Ellis Island Immigration Museum, where many rooms appeared as they had during the height of immigrant processing. Other areas housed theaters, libraries and an oral history recording studio. The museum was renamed the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration in May 2015.
In the 1990s, the Foundation restored two more buildings (for a total of five buildings saved and restored on Ellis Island), expanding and upgrading the Museum Library and Oral History Studio, and creating both a Children's Orientation Center and the Ellis Island Living Theater. The Museum has welcomed over 35 million visitors since its opening in 1990. Working to promote knowledge of the Island, the Statue, and immigration history, the Foundation has also published and made available to libraries and schools many books and curriculum guides, as well as a CD-ROM produced in collaboration with History Channel.
One of the most inspiring Foundation projects is The American Immigrant Wall of Honor®. Located on the restored Ellis Island, the Wall proudly bears the names of nearly 775,000 immigrants whose descendants memorialized them by having their names inscribed there. Registrations are now being accepted for a new phase of the Wall. Names inscribed before the end of the calendar year appear on the Wall at Ellis Island at the beginning of the following summer.
The Foundation's most recent project is one of its most compelling – the creation of the Peopling of America Center® – which expands upon the Ellis Island Era to include the entire panorama of the American immigration experience from this country’s earliest days, right up to the present. The galleries that explore the pre-Ellis Era 1550-1890 opened to the public in October 2011, and the post-Ellis galleries opened in May 2015.
In the wake of 9/11, the Foundation spearheaded a campaign to raise the funds necessary to make critical safety and security upgrades to the Statue so that the National Park Service/U.S. Department of the Interior could reopen Lady Liberty's doors to the public on August 3, 2004.
The Golden Door Society encourages individuals to make the Foundation the beneficiary of their estate planning. When you make a planned gift to The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation by designating a charitable bequest in your will, the Foundation will honor you with membership in our Golden Door Society. The purpose of the Golden Door Society is to recognize those individuals and families that have made a very special contribution to the Foundation. Please contact the Foundation's Office of Planned Giving to discuss these opportunities further:
The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. Att: Planned Giving Department17 Battery Place #210, New York, NY 10004-3507212-561-4500
More about the corporate governance principles of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation as well as financial information can be found in the Governance section.
Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty need your support. Donate now to help preserve the islands for future generations.
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