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.
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.
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.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ellis Island (United States). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Ellis Island. Read more about this site.