Ellis Island: all you need to know about this famous immigration island

History of Ellis Island

Prior to the year 1892, Ellis Island was the entry point for many immigrants landing in the United States to try their luck and live their American dream. At first nicknamed Little Oyster IslandEllis Island took its current name in honor of Samuel Ellis, a Scottish settler and owner of the island in the 1770s. Ellis Island was later purchased by New York City.

Initially, the island extended over 1.2 hectares, but faced with the massive arrival of immigrants, its area was enlarged to 11 hectares. This expansion was made possible thanks to the earth resulting from the works of the New York subway.

In 1892, the island's federal immigration center opened its doors and closed in November 1954. Immigrants arriving in New York had to undergo several exams (physical and mental) in order to find out whether they met the various criteria for immigration. admission of the country. During these 62 years, the city administration recorded more than 8 million immigrants.

In 1924, the immigration laws imposed several quotas and with these measures, the immigration rate fell and Ellis Island became a detention center for all foreigners rejected from the territory of the United States. During World War II, the island also served as a detention center.

In 1954, the Ellis Island immigration service closed its doors and today this island is on the National Register of Historic Places (National Register of American Historic Sites). In 1965, the island was also incorporated into the National Monument of the Statue of Liberty.

On this small island of 0.13 km2, tourists can now visit the Immigration museum where photos and exhibits retracing the history of immigration are exhibited. This museum was opened in 1990.

Ellis Island: an island with very significant names

Did you know that Ellis Island was previously nicknamed The Island of Tears, in other words "the island of tears" in reference to immigrants who were refused for medical reasons, for example (they were about 2%).

Along with Liberty Island, Ellis Island was also called The Oyster Island or "the island of the little oyster" because of the oyster beds that were located all around.

Immigration Museum: a visit not to be missed!

Discovering Ellis Island has become a must-do activity in New York today. Indeed, during your visit, you can enjoy a charming island and discover the Immigration Museum, a fun place rich in history. This museum is easily recognizable thanks to its brick towers. Its entrance is located under a glass roof.

As you visit, you will learn about the history of these millions of immigrants and the stages they took from their arrival in New York to their official acceptance into the territory.

Inside the Immigration Museum, you can also discover several points of interest:

  • The American Immigrant Wall of Honor where more than 600 names are registered.
  • The American Family Immigration History Center which lists the names of immigrants and the different boats in which they traveled.
  • The American Flag of Faces where photo montages are exhibited. These represent Americans with their ancestors and families.

Period objects, clothing, but also personal belongings of people who have passed through Ellis Island are also exhibited on the third floor of the museum. Don't forget to go to the Registry Room where immigrants had to wait until they were inspected and entered into registers.

If you wish, the museum also offers a 45-minute visit during which you can visit the place as a newcomer.

Good to know: computers are also available in the museum. Thanks to these, people wishing to do so can search the archives if some of their ancestors passed through Ellis Island. Audio guides in French are also available if you don't speak English very well.

If you get hungry during your visit, on the ground floor, a cafeteria is open.

Finally, entry to the museum is free, but you will need to purchase a ferry ticket.

How to discover Ellis Island?

To visit Ellis Island, two solutions available to you:

  • Statue of Liberty + Ellis Island : with this option, you will be able to visit these two essential sites. After boarding the ferry, the latter will make a first stopover on Liberty Island before leaving for Ellis Island. After admiring the Statue of Liberty, all you need to do is take the ferry back to explore Ellis Island.
  • Include the visit of the island in a pass : The Explorer Pass, New York City Pass and New York Pass include the ferry ticket to Ellis Island.

If you don't know which pass to choose, don't hesitate to take a look at our comparison!

Ellis Island: how to get there?

Ellis Island is located at the Hudson River estuary and to get there you will need to take the ferry either from Battery Park in New York, or Liberty State Park in the state of New Jersey. If you are departing from New York you will stop first on Liberty Island, then Ellis Island and if you are departing from New Jersey it will be the opposite. On average, the ferry puts 15 minutes to make the crossing.

To get to Battery Park, you can take Tube Line 1 to South Ferry or lines 4 and 5 to Bowling Green.

Ferries run every 20 - 30 minutes. Ticket prices are $ 18.50 per adult, $ 14 for people over 62, $ 9 for children aged 4 to 12, and free for children under 4.

What are the island's opening hours?

Ellis Island is open daily (except December 25) from 9h30 to 17h.

Visiting Ellis Island during your stay in New York is therefore a must. Rich in history, this island will teach you a lot about the history of immigrants in the XNUMXth century and if you can combine a visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, even better 😉

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