It’s a wonder if Samuel Ellis, the original owner of Ellis Island, ever dreamed that this tiny island in harbor off the New York coast would ever be as historically prevalent as it is today. Mr. Ellis purchased the island and opened up a small tavern that catered to the sailors and fishermen that made a living in the harbor itself. When he passed away, ownership fell to his heirs, who eventually sold it to the state of New York. The island then became an important military site for national protection, as it housed military ammunitions. It is now home to an immigration museum that exhibits the rich history and cultural diversity of the United States of America.
How Ellis Island Became an Immigration Station
Before the federal government purchased Ellis Island from New York, each state handled immigration on its own. Processing and admission were handled internally, but when the immigration boom really began in the late 1800’s, the federal government decided that it would be in everyone’s best interest to have a centralized location for processing and admission to the country. Thus, Ellis Island became the legendary immigration hub for the entire eastern seaboard.
Ellis Island’s New Purpose Begins
On January 1st, 1892, Annie Moore, a 15-year old Irish immigrant was the first person to pass through the newly established immigration station. She was greeted with a gold coin and plenty of fanfare. From that point, more than 12 million new Americans have passed through the island seeking a new life. Ellis Island now has a museum that documents all of those that have passed through its gates, including searchable records for those looking to learn more about their lineage and family.
The Island Grew!
When Samuel Ellis owned the island, the total area was less than 4 acres. Because the state and federal government needed more space to operate, they began using the rocks dug from the creation of the city-wide subway system to expand the island’s size. Before this solution was created, there was much debate as to how they would rid themselves of the debris. Seems that the solution was perfect on all counts!
Ellis Island Closes Its Doors for Good
Ellis Island ended its existence as the nation’s immigration station in 1954. Throughout its tenure, the location saw a nation expand at an incredible rate, and saw many enthusiastic new comers seeking refuge and success. From a small tavern location to become a national and global landmark, no one could imagine, including Samuel Ellis, the incredible impact the island would have on millions of lives from varying nations.
Ellis Island continues to draw visitors from across the globe as many come to take a look at what their ancestors may have seen or catch a glimpse of the incredible photographs and records that the station has accumulated. A visit to the island also offers an incredible view of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French wishing success and prosperity to the newly formed United States of America.