I have wanted to visit Ellis Island since learning about immigration during my undergraduate degree. I finally got there in 2019, and I certainly was not disappointed.
Ellis Island first opened its doors in 1892 and closed in 1954. At its peak, approximately 5,000-10,000 immigrants passed through Ellis Island every day. It is estimated that about 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island during the time of its operation.
Several laws and legislation were put in place to restrict immigration starting in 1882, with the Chinese Exclusion Act. This was followed in 1894, by the Immigration Restriction League and the Dillingham Commission in 1911. In 1917, literacy tests were introduced meaning that immigrants had to pass reading and writing tests in order to be granted entry to the US. This meant that many poorer immigrants, especially those from eastern Europe, with no education failed the tests and were denied entry.
The Immigrant Quota Act of 1921, restricted immigrant numbers to 357,000 per year, and the National Origins Act of 1924 reduced immigration even further to 150,000 per year. A culmination of these resulted in Ellis Island becoming redundant and finally closing its doors in 1954.
On the 11th of May 1965, Ellis Island became part of the National Park Service and in 1976, Ellis Island opened to the public. In 1984, it was renovated with $160 million from donations made to The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. in partnership with the National Park Service. The project was completed in 1990, and Ellis Island reopened to the public.
Below are a few pictures that I took whilst visiting Ellis Island along with a video for a more in-depth look inside the buildings. I tried to include as much of the museum as I could on the video for those people who can not get there in person.
Located on the 1st Floor is the Baggage Room, Journeys: The Peopling of America 1550-1890, Journeys: New Eras of Immigration 1945- Present, and the American Family Immigration History Center. On the 2nd Floor there is the Registry Room (Great Hall), the Hearing Room, Theater 2, and two exhibit galleries: Through America’s Gate and Peak Immigration Years: 1880-1924. Finally, located on the 3rd floor there is the Bob Hope Memorial Library, Dormitory Room, and the exhibits: Ellis Island Chronicles, Treasures From Home, Silent Voices, and Restoring a Landmark.
The museum has a lot to look around and take in so leave yourself plenty of time. Definitely buy tickets in advance. Tickets start at $18.50 and also include Liberty Island https://www.statuecruises.com/statue-liberty-and-ellis-island-tickets/
I would definitely advise you to book an early security check (the ticket time is your security check time, not your ferry time). I arrived at 8.30 am (my ticket time was 9 am) and there was no line so I got straight through. By the time I returned from the island, just after lunch time the queue was huge.
There is a free audio guide also included in your ticket price. On both Liberty Island and Ellis Island there are cafe’s, but the food could definitely be improved, they only seemed to serve fast food. I was there in the morning and there were no breakfast options.
Ellis Island is open every day except the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving) and December 25.
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