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The Bay Area’s Lost Statue Of Liberty

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I was snooping around old newspaper clippings the other day, looking to see what San Francisco was like 100 years ago, and found a super interesting article. Did you know that Treasure Island (Yerba Buena) almost had its own 700-foot Statue of Liberty?!

"Colossal Franciscan statue" as visualized by Francis Todhunter, San Francisco artist, for north side of Goat Island.

Drawing of the statue: “Colossal Franciscan” as visualized by Francis Todhunter, San Francisco artist, for north side of Goat Island.

The local paper, San Francisco CALL, reports on July 14th, 1922, that plans to build our own version of The Statue of Liberty were proposed today by Frank L. Hunter, assistant manager of the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society. It was planned to be built on the north side of the island. At a proposed 700 feet, the statue would have been over twice the size of NY’s iconic landmark. New York’s Statue of Liberty is just over 300 feet tall. A good size comparison is The Transamerica Pyramid which is just over 830 feet tall.

In the article, Hunter had some serious high hopes for this statue, “Such a statue would not only dominate the imagination of every man, woman and child in the San Francisco Bay region, but would invest the bay itself with an outstanding characteristic that would he broadcasted throughout the world.’’

Unlike the New York statue, this would be made out of Northern California materials. “Numerous businessmen to whom Hunter has described his idea joined in. declaring that such a statue would make an ideal trademark for manufactured products from Northern California. The entire statue would be designed and built by Californians with California materials used in its construction,” states the article.

So whatever happened to the would-be statue? I dug around the internet for hours looking and didn’t find a single mention of it beyond this one article. My hypothesis is that it may have had to do with funding. At the time, there were funds raised to bring people to Northern California. Hunter didn’t want to use these funds for the statue. Rather, he would look to citizen’s to help fund it.

Such a statue, symbolic of the name of this city and the early history of California, has been the idea of Hunter for several years and now that the California publicity movement is under way the plan was made public through San Francisco Business, the Chamber of Commerce publication. It is not Hunter’s idea to have the statue built out of any of the funds being raised for the advertising of Northern California, but to solicit later small popular subscriptions from citizens generally.”

I did stumble upon other articles which suggest that we have other statues which were meant to be our own version of the Statue of Liberty. Such as one in the “Center of the City” which has a long and sordid history behind how it went from a flaming beacon of hope to a sad pillar of not much at all.

We also have a few other replicas of the Statue of Liberty around The Bay Area. None of which really hold a candle to the awesomeness of Hunter’s vision.

A view of Goat Island, now called Yuerba Buena – photo from the island’s website

Another fun historical fact: Back then, in 1922, they called Treasure Island, Goat Island. I found out on Wikipedia that, back during the gold rush, a large number of goats were pastured on the island.

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.