Ellis Island
Research available   Online

      The October 29 hurricane caused a storm surge of up to 8 feet on both Ellis and Liberty Islands, destroying boilers and electrical systems. The artifact collection at the Ellis Island museum was unharmed, but had to be moved because it wasn't possible to maintain the climate-controlled environment necessary for preservation..

      The National Park Service, which manages the Statue of Liberty National Monument, of which Ellis Island is a part, estimates that the damage to Ellis and Liberty Islands from Sandy will cost $59 million to repair.

      Liberty Island and Ellis Island are currently closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. Liberty Island will re-open July 4, 2013. There will be limited access to Ellis Island. There is no planned re-opening date for the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island.

      There are still opportunities to view the Statue of Liberty, visit National Parks in the New York City, and have a fulfilling trip to New York City.

      Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay,was the gateway for millions of Immigrants to the United States as the nation's busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. The island was greatly expanded with land reclamation between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the site of Fort Gibson and later a naval magazine. The island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monuments in 1965, and has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990. A 1998 United StatesSupreme Court decision found most of the island to be part of New Jersey. The south side of the island, home to the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, is closed to the general public and the object of restoration efforts spearheaded by Save Ellis Island. The island has been closed to the public since Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 with no re-opening date projected

      Ellis Island is located in the Upper New York Bay east of Liberty State Park and north of Liberty Island The island has a land area of 27.5 acres (11.1 ha), most of which was created through land reclamation. The original portion of the island is 3.3 acres (1.3 ha) and is an exclave of New York City, while reclaimed areas are part of Jersey City. The entire island has been owned and administered by the U.S. federal government since 1808 and is operated by the National Park Service (NPS).

      In the 35 years before Ellis Island opened, over eight million immigrants arriving in New York had been processed by New York State officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in lower Manhattan, just across the bay. The Federal Government assumed control of immigration on April 18, 1890 and Congress appropriated $75,000 to construct America's first Federal immigration station on Ellis Island. Artesian wells were dug, and landfill was hauled in from incoming ships' ballast and from construction of New York City's subway tunnels, which doubled the size of Ellis Island to over six acres. While the building was under construction, the Barge Office nearby at the Battery was used for immigrant processing.

      The first federal immigrant inspection station was an enormous three-story tall structure, with out-buildings, built of Georgia pine, containing all of the amenities that were thought to be necessary. It opened with celebration on January 1, 1892. Three large ships landed on the first day and 700 immigrants passed over the docks. Almost 450,000 immigrants were processed at the station during its first year. On June 15, 1897, a fire of unknown origin, possibly caused by faulty wiring, turned the wooden structures on Ellis Island into ashes. No loss of life was reported, but most of the immigration records dating back to 1855 were destroyed. About 1.5 million immigrants had been processed at the first building during its five years of use. Plans were immediately made to build a new, fireproof immigration station on Ellis Island. During the construction period, passenger arrivals were again processed at the Barge Office.


Facts

1. It was called Gibbet Island in the early 18th century after a group of pirates were hanged from gibbets there.
2. Immigrants had to answer 29 questions to gain citizenship. Approximately 2 percent of all immigrants failed due to criminal records, disease, or other undesirable responses.
3. The station dining room was capable of was capable of feeding 1,000 people at once.
4. The remains of 6 Native Americans were removed from Ellis and Liberty Islands and have since been returned to their resting places by the National Park Service.
5. The immigration station processed its last immigrants on November 12, 1954. Today it functions as a museum.
6. As immigration slowed during WWI, the island was used as a way-station for the Army and Navy.
7. A kitchen fire on June 15, 1897 destroyed the entire station. The flow of immigrants had to be routed to a temporary location until the station was rebuilt and reopened in 1900.
8. At its peak in 1907, the Immigration Station processed a record 1.25 million immigrants, 11, 747 at the peak were processed in a single day.


Return to  Main Page
Return to   Archives