I Wonder: Goddess of Liberty




Posted on March 14, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Updated Monday, Dec 16 at 2:51 PM

How did the Goddess of Liberty come to reside on top of the Austin Capitol's dome?

Step aside Statue of Liberty! Texas has a statue of liberty of its own. The Goddess of Liberty atop the State Capitol in Austin is just as noteworthy a landmark for Texans.

However, what some may not know is that the Goddess currently holding her star over our fair city is not the original. According to the State Preservation Board, designs for the first statue were created in 1881 by Texas State Capitol Architect E. E. Myers of Detroit.

Needless to say, helicopters or any other type of flying device capable of installing a statue to the Capitol’s dome did not exist in 1881. So, how did the statue said to represent Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, justice, and arts and crafts, come to crown the Capitol?

Answer -- she was assembled on the dome.  The State Preservation Board says that after plaster molds were created, two foremen cast the zinc statue in 80 separate pieces that were then welded together into four sections: the torso, two arms, and head.

Information provided by the State Preservation Board explains workmen then “hoisted the four sections to the top of the Capitol dome and assembled the statue with large iron screws during the last week in February of 1888.”

At 16 feet tall, weighing approximately 2,000 pounds, the Goddess of Liberty proudly watched over Texas until 1985, when the State Preservation Board ordered a duplicate statue to be made due to visible deterioration on the original.

In November of that year, nearly 100 years after the original Goddess was installed, a helicopter from the Texas National Guard at Camp Mabry lifted her from the dome and put the statue on the south lawn for a temporary, close viewing.  

An attempt to put the replica on top of the dome in May 1986 failed because pilots were “unable to maneuver the helicopter using visual references.” Thus, the “Mississippi Army National Guard provided a rare ‘Skycrane’ helicopter which permitted a direct view to the pilot” and put the new Goddess in place on June 14, 1986. She stands there gallantly to this day.

The original Goddess of Liberty can be seen on display at The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

*See the video above for pieces of KVUE News packages reporting the original Goddess' removal from the State Capitol and the replica Goddess’ placement on the dome in 1986.

*The photo of the Goddess of Liberty is courtesy of Jon Wiley.

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