What Was Ellis Island? by Patricia Brennan DemuthFrom 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island was the gateway to a new life in the United States for millions of immigrants. In later years, the island was deserted, the buildings decaying. Ellis Island was not restored until the 1980s, when Americans from all over the country donated more than $150 million. It opened to the public once again in 1990 as a museum. Learn more about Americas history, and perhaps even your own, through the story of one of the most popular landmarks in the country.
9 Things You May Not Know About Ellis Island
Ellis Island is a federally owned island in New York Harbor , within the states of New York and New Jersey , that contains a museum and former immigration inspection station of the same name. As the nation's busiest immigrant inspection station from to , it processed approximately 12 million immigrants to the United States through the Port of New York and New Jersey. The north side of the island hosts a museum of immigration, accessible only by ferry. The south side of the island, including the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital , is abandoned but accessible to the public through guided tours. It later became a naval magazine for storing artillery.
Long before it became a way station for people looking for a new beginning, Ellis Island —named for its last private owner, Samuel Ellis—was known as a place where condemned prisoners met their end. The first would-be immigrant to set foot on the island was Annie Moore , a teenager from County Cork, Ireland who had crossed the Atlantic with her 11 and 7-year-old brothers en route to reuniting with family in New York. The waters surrounding the island were too shallow for transatlantic ships to navigate, so most docked and unloaded their passengers in Manhattan. During the detour, American citizens and first and second-class passengers were allowed to enter the country after only a brief inspection, but steerage passengers were herded onto ferries and shuttled to Ellis Island for further processing. The stopover was occasionally clouded by corruption. Upon arrival at Ellis Island, immigrants were ushered into a room called the Great Hall and paraded before a series of medical officers for physical inspection. Most were allowed to pass by in a matter of seconds, but those whom the doctors deemed physically or mentally deficient were marked with chalk and taken away for additional screening.
To roam the grounds of Ellis Island is to retrace the footsteps of some 12 million immigrants who passed through this small patch of land in New York Harbor on their way to a new life free from war, famine and persecution. The primary gateway to the American Dream from to , today Ellis Island is home to the poignant National Museum of Immigration, where visitors can learn about one of the largest human migrations in history through photos, artifacts and interactive displays. Consider a jaunt to Ellis Island after visiting nearby Liberty Island, home to one of the world's most iconic symbols of freedom: The Statue of Liberty. Visitors to Ellis Island today have similar a experience, as the only access to the island is by ferry , with service provided solely by Statue Cruises. The ferry drops off passengers at the Statue of Liberty before proceeding to Ellis Island.
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