August 10 – 12, 2019
The next part of my day Tuesday after visiting Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty was going to Ellis Island and the Immigration Museum. Entrance is included in the ferry ticket from Statue Cruises.
The museum itself is huge, plus there’s other parts of the island to explore. You could easily spend a whole day there if you were really interested in every part and exhibit of the museum. I did an overview and visited most of the exhibits using the included audio guide. I probably spent about three hours there, but I felt like I missed so much detail and analysis! I did see a lot, though.
The ferry takes you from Liberty Island to Ellis Island.
The island is shaped a bit like a “U” and the ferry enters and docks in the middle. The museum is to your right as you exit the ferry.
Photos courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia
The history behind Ellis Island is pretty cool. It originally was a military fort and detention center. In the 1900s, it was an immigrant processing center and also had medical quarantines. Over 12 million immigrants entered through Ellis Island, and it’s estimated that 40% of US citizens can trace at least one ancestor who entered through here. When the “era of mass immigration” slowed down, the Island was primarily used for detention of immigrants who were to be deported. During the time when it was an immigrant processing center, only about 1-2% of immigrants who came through were deported. If they were, it was primarily due to illness or disability. Immigrants went through a long processing time, complete with interviews and medical screening.
The Island closed for this purpose in 1954. The buildings began to deteriorate and collapse, but in the decades to come, there were plans to restore the Island for historical purposes. They kept parts of the building the same, such as the main hall in the main building and the original floors in a few of the rooms, but much of the museum had to be restructured and rebuilt. They also have displays with some of the original items from the the processing center. It reopened in the late 1900s as a museum.
The Great Hall: one of the spaces that was restored to look nearly identical to its original form. First photos courtesy of History.com.
Original floors in one of the exhibit rooms. Followed by exhibits of some remaining items taken from the deteriorated building. Last image is an exact replica of the court room in its original location in the main building.
There’s so much more history on Ellis Island and the Immigration Museum that I simply can’t do justice! Read more about the museum and its exhibits on the National Park Service website.
Next, it was time to take the ferry back to Battery Park, New York. It ended up being super sunny that day, and I didn’t realize this until I was already on the islands. If you’ve kept up with my travel blog, you know I have a chronic problem with getting sunburned. The ferry wait ended up being pretty long because there was too many people in line for the first one, so I ended waiting an additional 20 minutes for the second one.
I made it back to the main land, and then it was time to find a short final adventure before my flight back to Maine!