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U.S.A.: Ellis Island

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Ellis Island | U.S.A. | Americas

[Visited: March 2010]

Dark clouds were sailing through the sky over Manhattan when I boarded the ferry at Battery Park. Even though the ferry was full, the upper deck still had some space. While the skyline of the Big Apple was getting smaller, we were sailing in the direction of the Statue of Liberty. From a distance, it did not look particularly big, but when we got closer, it towered over our boat and dwarfed all of the passengers. A brief stop at the iconic statue and a short hop to Ellis Island before we could disembark. While all passengers rushed into the museum, I decided to leave the crowd behind and walked towards the old ferry terminal. Access to it was blocked, but it allowed for a view of the old hospital buildings as well as the terminal building itself. From here, I walked around the former immigration station, nowadays the immigration museum.

Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): Formerly the Immigrant Station, the main building has been turned into a museum

At the eastern side of the island, I found the Wall of Honor. A circular metal construction, it lists immigrants to the USA. Any descendant of an immigrant willing to donate money, can be represented here - it is not a conclusive list. A quick scan of the names on the Wall of Honor reveals the enormous variety of immigrants arriving in the USA. From the sea side of the wall, you get an unobstructed view of the skyline of New York. After the outside exploration, I moved inside and visited a hall in which the immigration process is further explained through statistical facts that are presented in easy to understand, colourful displays. Next, I moved to the Great Hall. It was here that most immigrants arrived. Actually, first and second class passengers from the large ocean steamships were allowed direct entry into the USA - only those with 3rd class tickets had to go through the immigration process on Ellis Island, between 1892 and 1954, when the process was taken to the US consulates and embassies worldwide.

Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): Immigrants from various countries

It was in this immigration station that aspiring US citizens were screened for illness, and were scrutinized for their future potential in the States. This screening normally took 3-5 hours, so for most people, Ellis island was just an intermediate stop where they would not stay. Some two percent were sent back home - the others stayed in New York or moved into the vast lands of their new country. After the Registry Room (or Great Hall), I moved through the rest of the museum. Here, I saw pictures of immigrants, the courtroom where some people were tried, the baggage room where people arrived, an exhibition where the entire process of admission was explained, artifacts taken by immigrants, and more information. There also is a room with computer which you can use to trace your forefather immigrants who moved to the USA. During its 64 years of operation, some 12 million people went through Ellis Island. The function of this island has changed over time: once a defensive outpost at the mouth of the Hudson river, the immigration station for the USA, it now has turned into one of the foremost tourist spots of New York.

Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): Wall of Honor and skyline of Manhattan
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): Faces of immigrants with the US flag in the background
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): Information about immigration in the USA
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): The registry room also known as the Great Hall
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): Faces of immigrants forming the US flag
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): One of the many information stands of the museum
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): Ferry terminal and hospital building
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): American Immigrant Wall of Honor and Manhattan skyline in the background
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): View of Ellis Island from the Hudson River
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): Main building on Ellis Island seen from behind
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): US citizenship was the ultimate goal of most immigrants
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): Baggage of immigrants who often tried to take all their possessions
Picture of Ellis Island (U.S.A.): Influence of foreign languages on American English

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