Seattle Now & Then: Alki Statue of Liberty replica

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THEN1: In this composite of three snapshots from Feb. 23, 1952, a reported crowd of 2,000 Sea Scouts and Boy Scouts, bearing 68 flags, joins others in dedicating the Alki Statue of Liberty replica just before its shroud was lifted next to the Alki Bathhouse (right rear). The Sea Scouts’ 44-foot wooden ketch, the S.S.S. Yankee Clipper, anchors offshore. (Courtesy Steve Grassia, Sea Scouts, Chief Seattle Council)
NOW1: Representing those at the 1952 ceremony, teenage Sea Scouts (a branch of the Boy Scouts) and their leaders salute the 2007 Alki Statue of Liberty replica while their 65-foot, steel-hulled Army t-boat, the S.S.S. Propeller, skippered by Al Bruce, anchors offshore. They are (from left) leaders Robyn Kolke, Jeremy Makin and Daniel McMinn; and scouts Daniel Kolke, Liam Rolstad, Ryan Covey, Finley Russell, Arnav Venna, Sam Vick, Vaughn Russell and Sylvia Adams, all of the Propeller, and Gavin Walker of sister ship Yankee Clipper. The uniform of Walker, holding the U.S. flag, bears a 1952 design. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in the Seattle Times online on Feb. 17, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Feb. 20, 2022

What can we learn about liberty from a replica at Alki?
By Clay Eals

When I led a tour for a mother and her 3-year-old daughter along Alki Beach a few years back, we stopped at the Statue of Liberty replica. I asked the girl to look up and tell me what she thought the statue was raising aloft in her right hand. Her innocent, timeless response:

“An ice-cream cone!”

The next question was tougher. What was the statue cradling in her left arm?

“A phone?”

Of course, the correct answers are a flaming torch and a tablet, the latter inscribed with the Declaration of Independence date of July 4, 1776.

The replica, in two renditions over the years, has prompted countless moments, teachable and otherwise, ever since 200 of the 8-1/2-foot-tall miniatures — modeled on the 151-foot, 1886 original in New York harbor — were erected across the country by the Boy Scouts of America following World War II. The patriotic campaign was dubbed “Strengthening the Arm of Liberty.”

THEN2: John Kelly is interviewed on April 3, 2017, by Circa TV before the Alki Statue of Liberty replica. He joined the Sea Scouts as a West Seattle High School junior in 1938. For the 1952 dedication, he was a Yankee Clipper mate and later its longtime skipper. He died a year ago at age 99. (Clay Eals)

At Alki, after filling a 15-block-long parade, 2,000 scouts dedicated a water-facing replica along the park’s promenade on Feb. 23, 1952. This Wednesday marks its 70th anniversary.

Weather and dispiriting crime took a toll. By climbing her ridged foundation, vandals repeatedly yanked off Lady Liberty’s right arm, flame and seven-point crown. In 1975, she even was knocked off her base.

Further heartache surfaced in 2000 when, as scheduled, a 1952 time capsule of thousands of scout names and other ephemera in the base was opened, but water had destroyed much of its contents.

The replica assumed new poignancy after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. For days, locals congregated at its base, inscribing 1,000 paper bags that held tea-light candles and lined the Alki promenade as luminarias.

Messages ranged from anger (“You can hide, you cowards, but we will find you”) to hope (“We have really only one thing in common: freedom to believe what we want, in peace”). The Southwest Seattle Historical Society preserved and later displayed the bags annually.

NOW2: Best friends and Alki Elementary School fourth-graders Esme Jones (left), 9, and Eliza Cooper, 10, stand with the original 1952 Alki Statue of Liberty replica, on display at the Log House Museum of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, 3003 61st Ave. S.W. (Clay Eals)

A new replica arose on the old base in 2007 and, thanks to a campaign funded by inscribed bricks, was rededicated in 2008 on a sheer, lighthouse-themed base in a redesigned plaza. The battered earlier version was moved to the historical society’s nearby Log House Museum.

In 2009, fueled partly by children’s items, the historical society and Alki Community Council buried near the new replica’s base a better-protected time capsule, to be opened in 2059.

Only 100 of the replicas still stand nationwide. With liberty’s hard truths and stern ideals buffeted by today’s tyrannical forces, those visiting the Alki statue just might rediscover a measure of honest inspiration.


Special thanks to Sea Scouts skippers Steve Grassia, Al Bruce and Robin Kolke for their invaluable help on this installment. Also thanks to Mary Kay Walsh, who loaned the U.S. flag!

Below are 8 historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and West Seattle Herald that were helpful in the preparation of this column. At the bottom, we also present a brief reflection by Paul Monk, as related via his niece Kirstie Cameron.

Feb. 13, 1952, Seattle Times, p19.
Feb. 20, 1952, West Seattle Herald, p1.
Feb. 22, 1952, Seattle Times, p14.
Feb. 24, 1952, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p12. (Courtesy Steve Grassia)
Feb. 24, 1952, Seattle Times, p14.
July 2, 1986, West Seattle Herald. (Courtesy Clay Eals)
July 15, 1987, West Seattle Herald, p1. (Courtesy Clay Eals)
July 15, 1987, West Seattle Herald, p3. (Courtesy Clay Eals)
July 5, 2000, West Seattle Herald, p1.
July 5, 2000, West Seattle Herald, p2.
A brief reflection by Paul Monk, via his niece, Kirstie Cameron.

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Alki Statue of Liberty replica”

  1. I love the “then and now” pictures. I am amazed they can anchor so close to the beach without running aground. Perhaps that is why Alki was originally attractive to the white settlers on their sailing ships?

    1. Thanks for the comment, Dan. It seems close but actually the water depth is relatively shallow close to shore, which is why the settlers soon left Alki and headed to what we now know as downtown, where the depth near land was quite deep. It’s the old canoe and horseshoe clothesline story. –Clay

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