Everyone knows of this amazing place, yet we tourists only will catch a glimpse of its incredible past. Ellis Island is in the Upper New York Bay, which places it partly in Jersey City, NJ and in New York. It processed immigrants into the United States from 1892 until 1924. By processing, it took about 5-6 hours from start to finish, which included health examinations, hearing examinations, mental health examinations, and legal examinations to name a few. The immigrant had to prove they will not be a detriment to the United States and be a public charge. Surprisingly, only about 2% of those who wished to enter, were turned back. However, it meant families could be torn apart at the blink of an eye.
When you visit the Island, you can watch a short documentary they play two theaters. It explains how it was when some immigrants came to this country and how they were processed through. There is also a brief question and answer period prior to the beginning with one of the park rangers. He explained that the ships bringing the immigrants here would actually do their own inspection prior to embarking, because they would be in charge of paying for and feeding those who were not accepted into this country. Men would be separated from women and children. There are the Stairs of Separation and the Kissing Post located within feet of each other. Also, there is no cemetery on the premises (I asked that one!). Those who perished on the way over or on the Island were cremated and sent back to their homeland, or used for science in a surgical theater on the Island.
What isn’t really discussed, but rather a few plaques are displayed, is the fact that the Island once served partly as Fort Gibson. It was part of a triangle of Islands that would not let enemy ships near NYC. You can still see gunner holes at the bottom of the wall that faces the river. Also where did the name Ellis come from? It comes from the man who owned the island back in 1775, Samuel Ellis. When he passed away, it just became known as Ellis Island. After the U.S. entered WII, the land became a detention center for Germans, Italians, and Japanese because they were considered as alien enemies.
Information on how to get there: You go to Liberty State Park and I believe it’s a $6 parking fee, then the ticket that takes you Ellis Island is also the same ticket that takes you to the Statue of Liberty. If you’re up for both in one day, or just one site it will cost you $18. Be prepared to go through metal detectors and possibly be “wanded” by a TSA agent for everyone’s safety. This ticket can also be used to redeem headphones for touring the one section. Unfortunately, some of the exhibits and displays are half filled or completely empty because of the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. According to the website, some areas are completely closed, but I didn’t notice any ropes or tape prohibiting us from anywhere (other than outside to roam the entire grounds).
Here are some pictures. Go and make your own history!