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Dauphin's Statue of Liberty

If you take Route 322 from Harrisburg towards State College, you’ll pass close by the Susquehanna River at a stretch called Dauphin Narrows. Out there in the river stands a brilliant white replica of the Statue of Liberty, proudly standing in all her scaled-down glory on an old stone bridge piling. Distance plays havoc with your sense of scale in this area: Although Dauphin’s Lady Liberty looks tiny, she’s actually 25 feet tall and quite sturdy. She’s also the second replica of the Statue of Liberty to stand in the fast-moving waters.

A local lawyer and activist-artist named Gene Stilp put together the first statue with some friends for a

bit of a lark to celebrate the original Statue of Liberty’s centennial in the 1980s. When the ersatz replica was finished, they displayed it the closest thing they could find to the plinth on Liberty Island—an old railway bridge piling in the middle of the river. There it stood for years, raising a smile from motorists, until wind and weather finally carried it off in the 1990s. People missed it so much that Stilp and his team built a more durable replacement of wood, metal, and fiberglass, moved it onto the piling by helicopter, and lashed it securely to the plinth with cables.

This patriotic example of folk art is always a passing pleasure, however, since it’s almost impossible to see from the nearest town, Dauphin. The best you can manage is a few seconds glimpse as you drive on Route 322—unless you’re good enough at kayaking to navigate the treacherous waters in that stretch of the river.

You can read about all of Pennsylvania’s Roadside Oddities and other curious attractions if Weird Pennsylvania.

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