4/2010: Save Ellis Island, the non-profit established in 1999 to raise awareness and funding for the restoration and programming of the south side of the island, has announced dire economic circumstances. They have launched a campaign to raise $500,000 to sustain operations and programs over the next several months, by which time they expect to have new leadership commitments as well as national priority status for the Ellis Island Institute project, one of their most significant educational initiatives.
Ellis Island is significant as it was the principal federal immigration station in the United States after opening its doors in 1882. Some 1,500,000 immigrants were processed at the first depot for the port of New York before it was destroyed by fire in 1897. A new inspection station was opened on the island in 1900 with the completion of the massive main building, and during the next half century the small island was enlarged to encompass three connected islands covering 27.5 acres on which were built some forty structures, including general hospital and contagious disease hospital complexes, to provide facilities for the administration of federal immigration laws in proceeding incoming aliens. All told, it is estimated that some 2 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island before it closed in 1954.
The physical and social history of Ellis Island also reflects important transitions in American attitudes toward immigration. Between 1900 and 1914 immigration was at flood tide, reaching its peak in 1907 when more than one million aliens passed through its doors. It is during that period when the original island was enlarged several times to provide space for major new structures to supplement the main building, including the kitchen and laundry and baggage and dormitory buildings and the general hospital and contagious disease hospital complexes. After a sharp decline in immigration after World War I, a period that saw the island used primarily as a military hospital and detention and deportation center for suspected enemy aliens quickly revived. Immigration was altered dramatically with the passage of immigration restriction laws in the early 1920s. These statutes, which placed a ceiling on annual immigration and established quotas for foreign nations, also provided for the primary inspection of immigrants in American consulates in the immigrant’s country of origin. Thereafter only those immigrants whose status in this country was questioned, whose papers were not in order, or who required medical treatment were sent to Ellis Island. The facilities were increasingly used for the assembly, detention, and deportation of aliens who had violated the terms of their admittance. Thus, while the history of the Ellis Island immigration station reflected America’s liberal “open door” attitudes toward immigration, the later history of the island was shaped by the new national restrictionist policies, which succeeded in narrowing the “open door” to America.
Site processed 12 million immigrants 1892-1924; disuse after WWII; medical complex
1936 modern style ferry slip building received $1.1 million from Save America’s Treasures; buildings in ruins, invaded by trees, roofs are gone, lost masonry; rusted steel supports
1992 threatened by development; Park Service relented; Supreme Court awarded ownership to NJ; NJ Governor’s Advisory Committee on Preservation and Use of Ellis Island
1/00 Report and Recommendations to Whitman; Ellis Island New Jersey Foundation-nonprofit
12/00 Hudson County proposes pedestrian bridge
12/00 public forums; Beyer Blinder Belle for Park Service to develop plan; proposed satellite facility of National Mental Health Museum in Washington; $ from Congress, NPS, save Ellis Island foundation
Lis Nitze 973-734-0489
Governor’s advisory committee presented recommendations on preservation and reuse, fundraising organization formed, and NPS commissioned preservation plan.
164 A Lincoln Avenue,
Yardley, PA 19067-1304