Right now, a few floral tributes rest at the base of the Alki Statue of Liberty, simple remembrances of 9/11 on its 12th anniversary, though a shadow of what was there two years ago on the 10th anniversary:
The plaza built around the statue, a touchstone for gatherings of many kinds, has just passed a milestone anniversary of its own: Five years since its dedication on September 6, 2008. If you moved to West Seattle sometime after that, you might not realize the statue was originally on a square concrete base in a sea of asphalt:
Now, it is the centerpiece of a swirling plaza of bricks and benches:
This West Seattle icon was renovated in two stages: The statue itself was replaced and re-dedicated in 2007. By then, a local couple who had met nearby was leading a committee pursuing the vision of something grander to surround it, a new statue pedestal and plaza. Libby and Paul Carr headed up the Seattle Statue of Liberty Plaza Project, a citizens’ committee that made it happen, mostly through private donations. We saw Libby last weekend at another special event nearby and talked about the plaza’s anniversary. She later shared this remembrance:
It was wonderful to see another great example of community support and participation with the celebration of the Harbor Seal Day festivities and dedication of the “Sentinels of the Sound” sculpture just north of the Bathhouse on Alki Beach.
It reminded Paul and I of another picture-perfect day just 5 years ago … and another wonderful community celebration for the long awaited completion of the new Statue of Liberty Plaza. The Seattle Statue of Liberty Plaza Project worked for almost two years to bring this long awaited project to completion, which was overwhelmingly supported by the whole West Seattle and greater Seattle community. In fact, people as far away as Brooklyn, NY, and even further, bought bricks, plaques and benches which raised the money to build this beautifully designed space, designed by architects Matt Hutchins and Chris Ezzell, who so generously donated their work.
Like so many people, we have have often enjoyed strolling on the promenade and then coming to the Statue Plaza to enjoy a slow meditative meandering and reading many of the brick inscriptions and getting glimpses of the meaning and history this place holds for so many.
I am glad that Paul and I and the whole community could participate in building this special space that promises to be here for a long time to come …
Libby Carr, Co-Chair of SSLPP
We were first reminded of the anniversary by one of the architects Libby mentioned in her note, Matt Hutchins of CAST Architecture. We asked for his thoughts, five years later:
For my part, the plaza is more of a success than I had hoped!
When we were working with our neighbors during the community design process, our goal (from my design presentation notes, Sept. 2007) was to:
‘Provide a community landmark with a safer, rejuvenated public space that celebrates not only the symbolism of the Statue, but also the commitment of this community to this part of Alki Beach history. The plaza is designed to inhibit vandalism and reduce the need for City maintenance. ”
Given the nearly three-year struggle to get it approved, funded and build, nothing is more satisfying that to see the Statue and plaza so well used and loved. I’m always filled with pride seeing how many people are hanging out there, meeting friends, doing tai chi, salsa dancing and, yes, even using it for guerrilla-art installations.
It is holding up very well given the environment and the use, and I credit the ongoing efforts by community members, the Parks Department, and the maintenance endowment written into the fundraising campaign.
Your editor here is finishing this story while seated on a bench at the plaza, where in just the past hour or so we’ve seen people stop by to look at the floral 9/11 tribute, to read the statue’s plaques, or just to bask in the sun and sea air on a 90-degree afternoon.
P.S. Stewardship of the plaza, by the way, is now in the hands of the Alki Community Council, since a 2010 agreement.