The museums island Ellis Island

Saturday, 17 May 2014 - 01:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Museums, Exhibitions, New York City, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks
Reading Time:  6 minutes

Ellis Island, as seen from Liberty Island © Daniel Schwen/cc-by-sa-3.0

Ellis Island, as seen from Liberty Island © Daniel Schwen/cc-by-sa-3.0

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 Monument in 1965, and has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990. A 1998 United States Supreme 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 re-opening date at some point of 2014.

Originally much of the west shore of Upper New York Bay consisted of large tidal flats which hosted vast oyster banks, a major source of food for the Lenape population who lived in the area prior to the arrival of Dutch settlers. There were several islands which were not completely submerged at high tide, although most of them were submerged. Three of them (later to be known as Liberty, Black Tom and Ellis) were given the name Oyster Islands by the settlers of New Netherland, the first European colony in the Mid-Atlantic states. The oyster beds would remain a major source of food for nearly three centuries. Landfilling to build the railyards of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and the Central Railroad of New Jersey would eventually obliterate the beds, engulf one island and bring the shoreline much closer to the others. During the Colonial period Little Oyster Island was known as Dyre’s, then Bucking Island. In the 1760s, after some pirates were hanged from one of the island’s scrubby trees, it became known as Gibbet Island. It was acquired by Samuel Ellis, a colonial New Yorker possibly from Wales, around the time of the American Revolution. In 1785 he unsuccessfully attempted to sell the island:

TO BE SOLD
By Samuel Ellis, no. 1, Greenwich Street, at the north river near the Bear Market, That pleasant situated Island called Oyster Island, lying in New York Bay, near Powle’s Hook, together with all its improvements which are considerable;…
—Samuel Ellis advertising in Loudon’s New York-Packet, January 20, 1785

Ellis Island Immigration Museum entrance © chensiyuan/cc-by-sa-3.0 Ellis Island Immigration Museum - Great Hall © Kadellar/cc-by-sa-3.0 Ellis Island © Ken Thomas Ellis Island © Laslovarga/cc-by-sa-3.0 New York City Skyline, as seen from Ellis Island © flickr.com - William Warby/cc-by-2.0 Ellis Island, as seen from Liberty Island © Daniel Schwen/cc-by-sa-3.0
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New York City Skyline, as seen from Ellis Island © flickr.com - William Warby/cc-by-2.0
New York State leased the island in 1794 and started to fortify it in 1795. Ownership was in question and legislation was passed for acquisition by condemnation in 1807 and then ceded to the United States in 1808. Shortly thereafter the War Department established a 20-gun battery, magazine, and barracks. From 1808 until 1814 it was a federal arsenal. At the end of the War of 1812, Fort Gibson was built and the island remained a military post for nearly 80 years before it was selected to be a federal immigration station. After the immigration station closed in November 1954, the buildings fell into disrepair and were all but abandoned. Attempts at redeveloping the site were unsuccessful until its landmark status was established. On October 15, 1965, Ellis Island was proclaimed a part of Statue of Liberty National Monument. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. As part of the National Park Service’s Centennial Initiative, the south side of the island was to be the target of a project to restore the 28 buildings that have not yet been rehabilitated. The “Wall of Honor” outside of the main building contains a partial list of immigrants processed on the island. Inclusion on the list is made possible by a donation to support the facility. In 2008, the museum’s library was officially named the Bob Hope Memorial Library in honor of one the station’s most famous immigrants. The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is awarded annually at ceremonies on the island.

The first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island was Annie Moore, a 13-year-old girl from Cobh, Ireland, who arrived on the ship Nevada on January 1, 1892. She and her two brothers were coming to America to meet their parents, who had moved to New York two years prior. She received a greeting from officials and a $10 gold piece. It was the largest sum of money she had ever owned. The last person to pass through Ellis Island was a Norwegian merchant seaman by the name of Arne Peterssen in 1954.

Read more on National Park Service – Ellis Island, EllisIsland.org and Wikipedia Ellis Island (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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