Little Liberty securely strapped to the moving truck's flatbed trailer in the Brooklyn Museum's back parking lot (all images courtesy National Building Arts Center)

The phrase “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us” comes to mind now that Little Liberty, the 30-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty that stood behind the Brooklyn Museum, has packed her bags and ventured to the Midwest. After 17 years in the museum’s parking lot, last Monday Little Liberty stepped down from her post for repair and restoration at the National Building Arts Center (NBAC) on the edge of Sauget, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri, where she will be permanently relocated and honored as a national symbol of freedom.

Little Liberty was commissioned in 1902 by William H. Flattau as a topper for his Liberty Storage & Warehouse Company building on West 64th Street in Manhattan, only 14 years after the 305-foot-tall original Lady Liberty was installed on Liberty Island (then called Bedloe’s Island). The galvanized steel and zinc statue was constructed by W. H. Mullins in Salem, Ohio, and transported over to Manhattan by rail. Flattau’s building was converted into a condominium apartment building in 2003, resulting in Little Liberty’s donation to the Brooklyn Museum’s Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden. The statue was installed outdoors in 2005 and underwent onsite restoration in 2006.

HWP Rigging staffers from St. Louis lowering Little Liberty from her base for transport

Michael Allen, executive director at NBAC, told Hyperallergic that the effort to move the statue over to the Midwest was spearheaded by the center’s founder, Larry Giles, in 2017. NBAC and the Brooklyn Museum already had a well-established relationship as the latter transferred a large number of architectural artifacts from demolished buildings across New York City from its collection to be restored and cared for in St. Louis. Lady Liberty’s transfer was postponed for years due to the pandemic and its subsequent impacts on the economy and shipping industry.

“NBAC will repair the steel base and skin on Little Liberty,” Allen said in regard to the necessary repairs for the statue. “We will complete construction of a base that replicates the base atop Liberty Warehouse where Little Liberty once stood, and have the statue installed by August. After installation, the statue will be repainted and we will hold a dedication ceremony likely in August.”

Little Liberty will be placed at the front of the Center, facing the city’s iconic Gateway Arch and hopefully enticing tourists and residents alike to explore the bigger picture of artistic and architectural fabrication through the lens of American identity. Allen confirmed that this was a permanent move.

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...