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El Monte Finds Home for Its Lady Liberty

August 27, 1987|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

EL MONTE — This city's 22-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty has found a home at last.

She will stand on a site west of City Hall on Valley Boulevard where she was placed temporarily earlier this month to gauge public reaction.

The site was selected because the council wanted the statue to be visible and safe from vandals and to fit in with the surrounding buildings. The only dissent came from Councilman Jeff Marrone, who has said he does not like the statue and has received unfavorable reaction from the public.

In moving that the statue remain outside City Hall, Councilman Jack Crippen, an avid statue fan, suggested that a makeup job is in order. The statue had been painted in an effort to make it look like the real Statue of Liberty, which has a tarnished copper look. The result was a bright mint green. So the one-ton, fiberglass replica will be repainted in an attempt to come closer to the real thing.

The statue will also be lighted from top to bottom and the area landscaped with benches for those who want to contemplate Lady Liberty. The work is expected to be completed in time for the city's 75th birthday in November.

The 4-1 vote at Tuesday's City Council meeting ended a yearlong search for a home for the statue, which had been gathering dust in the public works yard except for two appearances at the city's Fourth of July celebrations.

The statue was donated to the city in 1986 by a Taiwanese immigrant, Dr. Jing T. Wang. The city searched sporadically for a suitable site, but the statue's size was a problem since she is too tall to fit in with most surroundings.

The city wanted to put the statue outside county-owned Rio Hondo Municipal Court across the street from City Hall. But the judges said the statue was inconsistent with the courthouse atmosphere.

After a story about the statue's plight appeared in The Times two months ago, the city received calls and letters from all over the country, most offering a home for the statue if the city was unable or unwilling to find one in El Monte.

Mayor Don McMillan, embarrassed because of criticism the city was receiving, suggested the City Hall site, but Councilman Ernest Gutierrez, who was not enthusiastic, suggested the statue try out so everyone could see what she would look like there.

Statue supporters McMillan, Crippen and Councilman Dan Morgan reported favorable response from their constituents.

Gutierrez went along with the majority, and Marrone, who likened the statue to the pink plastic flamingos that were popular outdoor decorative items in the 1950s, conceded defeat but refused to make the vote unanimous.

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