Wednesday, November 12, 2014



New York City (JFK+50) Ellis Island*, the processing center for more than 12 million immigrants to the United States of America, closed down sixty years ago today, November 12, 1954.

The facility, named in honor of the original owner of the island Samuel Ellis**, opened as the main processing center for immigrants on January 2, 1892.  The first immigrant to be processed at Ellis was 15 year old Annie Moore of Ireland.

The main building was completed in 1900.  It was designed by Edward Lippincott Tilton and William Alciphron Boring in Renaissance Revival architecture.

Ellis Island
Main Building
Photo by Ingfbruno (2013)

All third class passengers were processed at the facility while first and second class passengers were inspected aboard ship before disembarking in New York or New Jersey where they passed through customs.

At Ellis, third class passengers were given medical and legal inspections.  After 1924, Ellis Island became a detention and deportation center for illegal immigrants.

Ellis Island was originally known as Kioshk or Gull Island.  The Dutch bought the island in 1630 and it became Oyster Island.  In the 1700s, it was the site of execution of state criminals.  Because they were hanged from a gibbet or gallows tree, it was called Gibbet Island.

New York State bought the island and in 1808 Fort Gibson was completed on the site.

*Ellis Island (1892-1954) served as the immigrant processing center for the United States.  The facility upon completion cost $1.5 million.  Abandoned for 20 years, President Lyndon B. Johnson officially proclaimed Elllis Island part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument on May 11, 1965.  

President Ronald Reagan asked CEO of Chrysler Corporation, Lee Iacocca to help finance the restoration of both EI and the SoL in 1892.  EI was reopened and dedicated on September 10, 1990.

**Samuel Ellis attempted to sell his property by running the following advertisement in the New York-Packet on January 20, 1785:

"TO BE SOLD, By Samuel Ellis, no 1 Greenwich Street, at the north river near the Bear Market.  That pleasant island called Oyster Island, lying in New York Bay..."


Ellis Island 
Immigration Museum Hall
Photo by chensiyuan (2009)