(WHTM) – Driving on Route 322 you may look to the Susquehanna River and notice something you may only get to see in New York City, a Statue of Liberty.
But why is there a mini version of the Statue of Liberty in the middle of the Susquehanna River?
In 1986, the New York City Statue of Liberty was celebrating its centennial so a Dauphin County resident decided to create a mini one in honor of the actual one.
Gene Stilp of Dauphin created the miniature version using fiberglass and Venetian blinds but the only issue was how to get it out into the river.
The statue took a few weeks to build in a friend’s garage and Stilp had 12 men who were ready to load the statue onto a boat and take it into the river.
The statue weighed around 450 pounds and on July 1, 1986, the 12 men loaded into boats and made their way to an abandoned railroad piling in the Susquehanna River.
Getting it out into the river wasn’t the hard part of the plan, nor was building it, it was the fact that these men were in pitch darkness lifting this 450-pound statue into the air to get it in place for all to see.
The statue became an instant hit with those in the community but Stilp’s plan was to have it taken down by Labor Day that year.
But due to the overwhelming love for the statue he decided to keep it up.
Unfortunately, the statue would be broken down over time, and in 1992 the storms forced the statue off the railroad piling and destroyed it.
Plans for a new and improved mini Statue of Liberty were set in 1993 and would cost around $60,000 to build.
In January 1997, the Dauphin Borough Council took over the project that was set in place.
The new statue was built using metal, wood, and fiberglass with polyester, weighed four tons, and cost around $33,000.
Instead of using boats and 12 men in the middle of the night, they decided to use a helicopter and airlift the new statue out to where the original statue once stood from 1986 to 1992.
The community wouldn’t know who created the original mini Statue of Liberty until 2011 when Stilp, who was a local lawyer at the time, confessed to creating the statue.
According to Atlas Obscura, “Stilp pointed out that the statute of limitations for prosecuting the crime of illegal statue placement has long since passed.”
The Mini Statue of Liberty continues to be a bright spot of the Susquehanna River to this day.