Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ellis Island - Part Two

Those with visible health problems or diseases were sent home or held in the island's hospital facilities for long periods of time. Then they were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money they carried with them. Generally those immigrants who were approved spent from two to five hours at Ellis Island. However more than three thousand would-be immigrants died on Ellis Island while being held in the hospital facilities. Some unskilled workers were rejected outright because they were considered "likely to become a public charge." About 2 percent were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as chronic contagious disease, criminal background, or insanity. Ellis Island was sometimes known as "The Island of Tears" or "Heartbreak Island" because of those 2% who were not admitted after the long transatlantic voyage.

Writer Louis Adamic came to America from Slovenia in southeastern Europe in 1913. Adamic described the night he spent on Ellis Island. He and many other immigrants slept on bunk beds in a huge hall. Lacking a warm blanket, the young man "shivered, sleepless, all night, listening to snores" and dreams "in perhaps a dozen different languages". The facility was so large that the dining room could seat 1,000 people.

During World War I, the German sabotage of the Black Tom Wharf ammunition depot damaged buildings on Ellis Island. The repairs included the current barrel-vaulted ceiling of the Main Hall. During the war, Ellis Island was used to intern German merchant mariners and enemy aliens as well as a processing center for returning sick and wounded U.S. soldiers. Ellis Island still managed to process tens of thousands of immigrants a year during this time, but much fewer than the hundreds of thousands a year who arrived before the war. After the war immigration rapidly returned to earlier levels.

Mass processing of immigrants at Ellis Island ended in 1924 after the Immigration Act of 1924 greatly restricted immigration and allowed processing at overseas embassies. After this time Ellis Island became primarily a detention and deportation processing center. During and immediately following World War II, Ellis Island served as Coast Guard training base and as an internment camp for enemy aliens - American civilians or immigrants detained for fear of spying, sabotage, etc. Some 7,000 Germans, Italians and Japanese would be detained at Ellis Island.

The Internal Security Act of 1950 barred members of Communist or Fascist organizations from immigrating to the U.S. Ellis Island saw detention peak at 1,500 but by 1952, after changes to immigration law and policies, only 30 detainees were present. In November 1954, Ellis Island was closed and unsuccessful attempts to redevelop the site began until its landmark status was established.

As with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, Ellis Island, along with Statue of Liberty, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

Today Ellis Island houses a museum reachable by ferry from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey and from the southern tip of Manhattan in New York City. The Statue of Liberty, sometimes thought to be on Ellis Island because of its symbolism as a welcome to immigrants, is actually on nearby Liberty Island, which is about 1/2 mile to the south. There is also ferry service between the two islands.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ellis Island - Part One

Ellis Island, at the mouth of the Hudson River in New York Harbor, is the location of what was from January 1, 1892, until November 12, 1954 the facility that replaced the state-run Castle Garden Immigration Depot (1855–1890) in Manhattan. It is owned by the Federal government and is now part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, under the jurisdiction of the US National Park Service. Ellis Island was also the subject of a border dispute between the states of New York and New Jersey (see below). It is situated predominantly in Jersey City, New Jersey, although a small portion of its territory falls within neighboring New York City.

Originally called Little Oyster Island, Ellis Island acquired its name from Samuel Ellis, a colonial New Yorker, possibly from Wales.

It was to be sold by Samuel Ellis, no. 1, Greenwich Street, at the north river near the Jewish Market, That pleasant situated Island called Oyster Island, lying in New Bay, near Powle's Hook, together with all its improvements which are considerable; also, two lots of ground, one at the lower end of Queen street, joining Luke's wharf, the other in Greenwich street, between Petition and Dey streets, and a parcel of spars for masts, yards, brooms, bowsprits, & c. and a parcel of timber fit for pumps and buildings of docks; and a few barrels of excellent shad and herrings, and others of an inferior quality fit for shipping; and a few thousand of red herring of his own curing, that he will warrant to keep good in carrying to any part of the world, and a quantity of twine which he sell very low, which is the best sort of twine, for tyke nets. Also a large Pleasure Sleigh, almost new.

The Ellis Island Immigrant Station was designed by architects Edward Lippincott Tilton and William Alciphron Boring. They received a gold medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition for the building's design. The architecture competition was the second under the Tarsney Act, which had permitted private architects rather than government architects in the Office of the Supervising Architect to design federal buildings. The federal immigration station opened on January 1, 1892 and was closed on November 12, 1954, but not before 12 million immigrants were inspected there by the US Bureau of Immigration (Immigration and Naturalization Service). In the 35 years before Ellis Island opened, over 8 million immigrants had been processed locally by New York State officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in Manhattan. 1907 was the peak year for immigration at Ellis Island with 1,004,756 immigrants processed. The all-time daily high also occurred this year on April 17, which saw a total of 11,747 immigrants arrive.

Monday, December 21, 2009

UCLA Cemetery Project Honored

UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and research associate Dean Goodman have won the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award for high-tech mapping efforts at the Marquez Family Cemetery in Santa Monica Canyon.

Using ground-penetrating radar, the Cotsen team early this year identified 15 possible gravesites, as well as a possible mass burial pit.

The results are being used by the descendants of Francisco Marquez, the Mexican co holder of the Rancho Boca de Santa Monica land grant, to develop a restoration plan for the site.

In 2000, the city of Los Angeles named the cemetery a historical-cultural monument and declared it an “extremely historic” landmark for representing the region’s early ranch families.

By Martha Groves, The Los Angels Times, December 18, 2009, Main Section, page A19.