From 1892 to 1924 some 16 million immigrants first set foot in the New World here. Today their descendants account for almost 40 percent of the U.S. population. Originally a 3-acre island, the site was expanded over the years to almost 28 acres supporting 36 buildings, yet facilities always seemed inadequate for the prodigious task at hand. In 1924 congressional immigration quotas slowed the tide of huddled masses yearning to be free. No longer needed for mass processing, the station became a detention and deportation center for undesirable aliens. In 1954 it was permanently closed. President Lyndon Johnson declared it a national monument in 1965.
In 1987, as part of a $160 million renovation, the main building was transformed into a museum. Covering 100,000 square feet, it features exhibits, restored areas and an innovative learning center for children. More than 30 galleries are filled with artifacts, historic photographs, posters and maps, as well as spaces where visitors can listen to the oral histories of immigrants and the ethnic music of many nations. Two theaters feature Island of Hope, Island of Tears, a documentary film; the exhibition Treasures from Home, contains priceless family heirlooms brought to America by immigrants and donated to the museum; and the exhibition Through America's Gate, a step-by-step view of the immigrant reception process. Visitors can search and obtain reproductions of their ancestors’ passenger records, ship manifests and images of the ships that brought them to America in the American Family Immigration History Center®.
Outside is The American Immigrant Wall of Honor®, which features the names of more than 700,000 individuals and families who have been honored for posterity by their descendants. The massive brick-and-limestone museum once housed dormitories, medical exam rooms and offices. Built in 1898 after a design by Boring & Tilton, the restoration was designed by Beyer, Blinder, Belle. Ellis Island is operated by the National Park Service.
Boat Schedule October 14 - Nov 21
First Ferry (Departs Mainland) 9:30 AM
Last Ferry (Departs from Mainland) 3:30 PM
Closing Ferry (Departs from Ellis Island) 5:15 PM
National Park Service Rangers offer outdoor public tours from April 1-Oct 31 and indoor tours from Nov 1-March 31 on a first come-first-served basis, contingent on staff availability. In the Junior Park Ranger program, youngsters agees 8-13 go on a one-hour guided tour of the island, participate in group activities afterward and can earn Junior Ranger Certification.
Curriculum-based programs for children in grades 4 to 8 are available by calling the National Park Service at (212) 363-3206 x178 or visiting http://www.nps.gov/elis/forteachers/index.htm.