FARGO — The Veterans Memorial Bridge between Fargo and Moorhead has a new Lady Liberty.
The new statue, put in place Monday morning, June 29, replaces a statue stolen in July 2019.
The original statue was donated to the city more than 70 years ago by the Boy Scouts of America and the Fargo Lions Club.
Numerous searches failed to find the missing statue or whoever stole it, and the city commissioned a replacement paid for with a single private donation. Officials said the donor wished to remain anonymous.
The new statue cost about $29,750, including transportation, city officials said.
The original statue weighed less than 300 pounds. The replacement bronze statue weighs about 675 pounds and will be anchored in place with internal bolts that will make it more difficult to remove, officials said.
Mayor Tim Mahoney said the statue is very important to members of the community.
"Lady Liberty is one of those unifying aspects of our community that is really appreciated and its symbolism is so critical. It is a vivid reminder of the liberties and freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of the United States and to have her back in time for our nation's birthday on July 4 makes it even more special and appropriate," Mahoney said.
The new statue was designed and cast by Atlas Bronze Casting LLC of Kearns, Utah.
According to stories in The Forum archives, the Fargo Lions Club presented the original Lady Liberty to the Fargo Boy Scouts and the city of Fargo in 1950, and a dedication ceremony was held in Island Park in June 1952.
At the time, it was reported that the statue was 1/19th of the size of the original Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.
In 1971 the statue's right arm was broken off in an act of vandalism, and in 1984 a man admitted to the crime and said he threw the arm in the trash near the former Agassiz Junior High School.
The statue remained in a maintenance shop for years until it was refurbished and unveiled again in 1987 — this time on a pedestal near the Main Avenue bridge.
An article from that year stated the statue had suffered a number of indignities over the years, including having the rays of its crown broken by climbers and its fingernails painted a gaudy red.
It was hoped the new location near the Main Avenue bridge would deter future vandalism, but that wasn't the case.
White paint was poured over the statue's head and shoulders in June 1991, prompting an outcry from the community and a $500 reward for information leading to arrests, which apparently did not happen.
In December 1993, the tines of the statue's crown were bent out of place. At the time, a Fargo Park District official said the statue was vandalized three times a year.
Mayor Mahoney said Monday the new statue will be kept under video surveillance.