The Old Fogies visit Ellis Island in New York

Visitors to Liberty Island on the ferry, can use the ferry to visit the nearby Ellis Island.

Ellis Island is an important pilgrimage for many Americans because it was the gateway into the US for over 12 million immigrants. Ellis Island was the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years from 1892 until 1954. Ellis Island  opened in 1892 on the site of what was known as Fort Gibson, the site had been used for defence since the early 19th century. After Ellis Island was closed,  the island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965 and has had a museum of immigration since 1990.

Like many tourist sites in New York, since the September 11 attacks in 2001, security is taken very seriously  and if you want to just visit Ellis Island you will still go through the airport style security. 

Much of the island has been closed to the public since 1954 and visitors tend to congregate outside the main building. 

The station’s main Building which now houses the Immigration Museum, was originally opened in 1900 and is considered one of the most symbolically important structures in American history.

The museum that opened in 1990 includes exhibits such as the  Hearing Room, Peak Immigration Years, the Peopling of America, Restoring a Landmark, Silent Voices, Treasures from Home, and Ellis Island Chronicles. 

The processing of immigrants was done on an industrial scale and time spent on the Island could vary from hours to weeks.

It was estimated that around 2% were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a chronic disease, criminal background, or insanity.

Initially many of the immigrants came from Northern Europe especially Scandinavia, Britain and Germany, over time immigrants from Southern Europe were attracted to the shores of the USA.

Walking through the exhibition, you cannot fail to be moved by the thought of how many people had given up everything to travel to the United States for an uncertain future in a strange land.

How many would look out of the window at the Statue of Liberty and wonder if they would be allowed to make a new life in America.

In a time when immigration is a hot topic around the world and especially in the USA, it is worth remembering that the modern United States was built by many of the immigrants that passed through the doors of Ellis Island.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London here.