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America’s Gateway - ELLIS ISLAND

New York Co., New YORK &

Hudson Co., NEW JERSEY


Gary B. Speck


ELLIS Island is located at the mouth of the Hudson River in in Upper New York Bay, southwest of the southern tip of Manhattan Island.  It is usually reached by the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Ferry from the south tip of Manhattan Island at the Castle Clinton ferry landing, or from Liberty State Park, New Jersey.  It is one mile southwest of the southern tip of Manhattan and a quarter mile east of Liberty State Park, New Jersey.  In 1998, the US Supreme Court split sovereignty of the physical “location” of the island between New Jersey (22.5 acres) and New York (5 acres).  As I had included Ellis Island in my New York ghost town listings way before that time, I am continuing to do so, even though that has now changed. (SEE the Save Ellis Island’s website for additional details and a map of the division.)  I am also adding it to my New Jersey listings, so this is the first major bi-state site in my files.


Ellis Island was an extremely busy, self contained island community that served as one of the busiest immigration stations in the country.  It was NOT the only one, just the main one for European immigrants from 1892-1954. 


On April 11, 1890, the island was designated an official immigration station, and on January 1, 1892, it opened.  Over the next 62 years, Ellis Island was the gateway to the United States for over 50% of all immigrants.


On June 14, 1897, the building complex burned, and the island was closed until December 17, 1990, when it reopened.  In 1924, mass migrations to the US ended, and Ellis Island was used as a deportation center as well as immigration center, although on a much smaller scale than the 1900‑1924 era.


During the 1917‑1919 and 1941‑1954 periods it was also used as a detention center for suspected enemy aliens.  Finally on November 29, 1954, the old station closed its doors, after admitting over 12,000,000 immigrants to American shores.  In 1965, the island complex was given to the National Park Service and it was added to the Statue of Liberty National Monument, and in 1976 opened to the public for visits. 


The island was closed again in 1984 for a $156 million renovation and restoration project.  On September 10, 1990 the Immigration Center reopened, consisting of museums, exhibits and interpretive displays.  There are 30 buildings in the complex still awaiting restoration, most on the south island.  The latest to open is the old Ferry Building in April, 2007.  There is an organization called SAVE ELLIS ISLAND that is making an attempt to save and restore this Nationally important historic site. 


If your ancestors came through Ellis Island, there is as website available for you to check for their records at Ellis This site is administered by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Foundation, who has done a credible job of posting immigration records from the 1892-1924 era. As this historic island is also a National Monument, the United States National Park Service also has it featured on their website.


We visited this fantastic site in 1992, and needless to say, I was overwhelmed by what was then restored.


This was our Ghost Town of the Month for January/February 2009



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FIRST POSTED:  January 02, 2009

LAST UPDATED: February 28, 2009


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