Visitors driving through Balboa for the first time are apt to slow down for a second look when they first spot the Statue of Liberty on Gorgona Road. Most are surprised to find a replica of this well known U.S. symbol so far south.
The Canal Zone statue, which faces the Balboa Fire Station, was donated to the Canal Zone Boy Scout Council in May 1951 by Morris Hoffman, a Kansas City, Missouri contractor and scouting enthusiast.
The original Statue of Liberty was formally presented on May 21, 1884 to the American ambassador in Paris by Ferdinand de Lesseps, head of the Franco-American Union, at that time at work on the ill-fated French effort to build a Canal in Panama.
The idea of a replica of the statue originated with Jack Whitaker, a Kansas City businessman and Scouter of long standing, during the 1951 "Strengthen the Arm of Freedom" crusade of the Boy Scouts of America.
A number of the 7½ foot high copper and bronze statues were made in a Chicago factory and presented to Boy Scout councils in 39 states. They are found gracing the grounds of eight state capitols, the lawns of 145 Court Houses, and 206 of the statues are located in Scout camps, school grounds and public buildings. In addition to the Canal Zone, the replicas also are found in the Philippines, Guam, Honolulu and Puerto Rico.
Although the Governor had approved the installation site in the triangle of land bound by La Boca Road, Balboa Road and the parking lot in front of the Balboa Police Station, there were no funds for the work and the statue was placed on display at the Canal Zone Library. When funds, mainly donations from the Boy Scout community, were available, the statue was installed at the selected site and dedicated on May 30, 1953.
The widening of Balboa Road made it necessary to move the statue to another area. It was relocated in May 1972 to in front on the Balboa Fire Station accross from Balboa High School. The statue was later moved to Ft. Clayton.
by: Virginia Richmond
June 27, 1999
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