Standing prominently between New Jersey and New York City, Ellis Island is a major landmark that welcomed millions of immigrants into the United States. The island includes original buildings that once processed waves of new arrivals between the 1890’s until the 1950’s.
Brief History and Facts
Ellis Island has served a number of purposes in its history. It was first a source of delicious oyster beds for the original settlers of New York. Then it was a pirate hideout, a military fort, a federal arsenal and barracks, before becoming the busiest immigration inspection station in the United States.
Established in the late 1800’s, Ellis Island served as an important entry point into the United States of America for nearly 12 million arrivals. They left their old lives behind and began new ones all across the United States. For decades, the venue processed the massive waves of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Russia, Italy and other regions in Europe. After World War I, the island was mainly used as a detention complex. Immigration quotas in the 1920’s ultimately led to the decline of the island’s role in processing immigrants.
Since 1965 Ellis Island has been part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. In 1990, it has been home to a museum of immigration. Today, more than three million people still come to Ellis Island every year, visiting as tourists to explore their own personal histories or the history of the United States. It is a moving and powerful stop on any trip to New York City, and offers the very best view of the Manhattan, New Jersey, Brooklyn and Staten Island skylines, not to mention the Statue of Liberty.
The Ellis Island Information Desk is the official visitor center on the island. You can obtain official maps, request audio tours and ask for special accommodations. The audio tours at this world-famous attraction are available in more than 10 languages.
You’re encouraged to begin your tour on the northeastern side of the island, which includes the Immigration Museum. The museum occupies the historic Main Building that retains the original French Renaissance Revival facade. Visitors will admire the limestone exterior and other distinct architectural elements of this national landmark.
Once inside, guests will also be in awe of the massive size and open layout of the Great Hall. Some of the Immigration Museum’s permanent galleries include Journeys: The People of America, New Eras of Immigration and American Flag of Faces. Visitors can also search for their ancestors at the American Family Immigration History Center. This venue contains an extensive collection of documents relating to millions of immigrants who entered the United States through the island.
The southwestern side of the island has a complex of other preserved facilities, including a morgue, hospital, powerhouse, measles wards and isolation wards.
Location and Getting There
Occupying 27.5 acres in the New York Harbor, Ellis Island is exclusively accessible by ferry. A bridge that connects the island with Jersey City is designated only for official use. You can board a ferry in Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park or Jersey City’s Liberty State Park. Most of the sightseeing boat tours also stop at the neighboring Liberty Island that’s home to the iconic Statue of Liberty. Note that Statue Cruises is the only company authorized by the National Park Service to provide ferry tickets and tours to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Click to visit Ellis Island official website.