One hundred and twelve years after Frederic Auguste Bartholdi had the same idea, Mayor Tom Bradley on Wednesday called for construction of a symbolic monument to welcome immigrants to America's shore.
Since the Eastern shore is already spoken for by a 100-year-old spike-crowned lady named "Liberty," Bradley's monument would hold forth on the nation's Western shore, in or near Los Angeles. There is no assurance, Bradley aides said, that it would be a lady, or even human.
The idea was made public Wednesday in a letter from Bradley to City Council President Pat Russell in which the mayor characterized Los Angeles as "the new Ellis Island . . . a melting pot of diverse cultures."
In the letter, Bradley asked the council to appoint a blue-ribbon committee to discuss construction of the West Coast symbol of greeting. Bradley said he hoped that the new landmark could be unveiled by 1992, the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World.
Bradley spokesman John Stodder said the mayor has no firm idea how big the monument should be, exactly where it would be placed, how much it would cost or who would pay for it, although Bradley would prefer to have the expense borne by private citizens.
"That's what the blue-ribbon committee is for," Stodder said. "It certainly could be near the port, in the water, or it could be somewhere else."
Likewise, he said, the committee would establish whether the monument would be in human form, like the Statue of Liberty, or artistically abstract.
Bradley, in making his monumental suggestion, is following in the ideological steps of French sculptor Bartholdi. Back in 1874, Bartholdi came up with the idea of a statue to honor America and raised enough money from French citizens to make it a reality.
Twelve years later, the 151-foot copper giant was placed on a stone pedestal on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, where for 100 years it has greeted wave after wave of immigrants. Bradley, in his letter, noted the exhaustive birthday bash staged for the French-born Liberty last weekend.
"I joined with millions of Americans who celebrated the restoration and 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty," Bradley said. "The spirit and enthusiasm of people across the country proves that the American dream is alive."