Going through the US immigration for the first time was both gut-wrenching and exciting for me, a cacophony of excitement, anticipation and dread.
When I visited the immigration station of Ellis Island I remembered that first time, and I thought that the millions of immigrants that passed through its halls probably felt the same when they landed there for the first time.
The island, which is part of New York and Jersey City, used to be the first stop of the majority of immigrants coming to America.
The immigration station was built 1892 and continued receiving the bulk of immigrants until it was closed in 1954. The restored Main Building, now housing the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, contains offices, registry rooms, dormitories, detention cells, clinics and quarantine areas that were used to process aliens coming to find a new life in the country. For the immigrants, Ellis Island became the Island of Hope and Island of Tears, as not all were admitted.
The museum today displays memorabilia that pays homage to and tells the story of the millions who came to America: tickets of steerage passengers, old passports, photographs and travel documents, luggage and other possessions that they brought from their former homelands.
Along its claustrophobic halls are rooms for examining the mental health of the newcomers, quarantine areas for the sick, and detention cells for the undesirable aliens.
Also on display are posters and advertisements of clipper ships and vessels that carried them, as well as the jingoistic posters and pamphlets that the anti-immigration movement used to manipulate public sentiment against the newcomers.
Aside from the Main Building, the complex also include the American Family Immigration History Center, which holds the ships' passenger records of 22 million immigrants that passed through the port of New York and Ellis Island until 1924; the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, and the contagious disease wards and the dormitory buildings.
Useful info: Visiting Ellis Island is usually done together with the Statue of Liberty tour (which I blogged here). It can be reached via the ferries that originate from Battery Park in New York or from New Jersey. The tour is $13 per person and includes entrance to the Statue of Liberty. Tickets can be purchased online.
pics, from top: the facade of the Main Building; one of the displays inside the museum; an old passport of an immigrant who passed through ElLis Island; the Great Hall, where immigrants were processed