2 days before my departure, boat ticket in hand, I made my way to Battery Park to get the Ferry across to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Although I’d seen them both from afar on my Circle Line Cruise – it was a wholly new thing to experience them upclose and personal.
First stop – Lady Liberty! The Statue of Liberty (originally called Liberty Enlightening the World (French: La Liberté éclairant le monde)) is the colossal, neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886
i slowly made my way around the statue, listening to my audio guide that happily spouted all sorts of interesting information into my ears. The statue, a gift to the United States from the people of France, is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of American independence. A broken chain lies at her feet and she’s half stepping away from it. The statue has become an iconic symbol of freedom and of the United States. 93 m from the ground to her tippy top, she’s incredibly imposing and grand. Whilst i didn’t book early enough in advanced for a ticket to explore her hollow interior, i certainly had a good look before continuing on to my next destination….
Ellis Island. The gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States and the site of the nation’s busiest immigration station from 1892 to 1954. There was a total of twelve million immigrants processed in there according to the US Bureau of Immigration. Today, over 100 million Americans – one third of the population – can trace their ancestry to the immigrants who first arrived in America at Ellis Island before dispersing to points all over the country.
going up a level, this is the room that was once swarming with people, patiently lined up after an already long and horrendous journey, having left all they once knew and many family and friends behind. The peak year for immigration at Ellis Island was 1907, with 1,004,756 immigrants processed. The all-time daily high occurred on April 17, 1907, when 11,747 immigrants arrived! Writer Louis Adamic came to America from Slovenia in southeastern Europe in 1913 and described the night 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”.
Isle of Hopes, Isles of Tears.
Generally, those immigrants who were approved spent from two to five hours at Ellis Island. Arrivals were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money carried. Those with visible health problems or diseases were sent home or held in the island’s hospital facilities for long periods of time. More than three thousand would-be immigrants died on Ellis Island while being held in the hospital facilities. Some unskilled workers were rejected because they were considered “likely to become a public charge.” Out of all the immigrants processed, about 2 percent were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a chronic contagious disease, criminal background, or insanity. That’s approximately 240 000 people turned away – Can you imagine how awful that would have been!!
But ofcourse, the majority did make it through and they are commemorated on a circular wall outside the main building. The American Immigrant Wall of Honor is a permanent exhibit of individual or family names commemorating the people who passed through the facility. It is the only place in the United States where an individual can honor his or her family heritage at a National Monument. It is currently inscribed with over 700,000 names and welcomes any new additions.
After the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, which greatly restricted immigration and allowed processing at overseas embassies, the only immigrants to pass through the station were displaced persons or war refugees. After the immigration station closed in November 1954, the buildings fell into disrepair and were all but abandoned until it achieved landmark status in 1965, as part of Statue of Liberty National Monument. After a huge restoration and developments project the Ellis Island Immigration Museum opened in September of 1990 and has since welcomed nearly 30 million visitors!
I also across another familiar sight – a memorial. This one was the East Coast Memorial which is a World War II war memorial that commemorates U.S. servicemen who died in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean during World War II. A total of 4,609 names are inscribed on both sides of eight 19-foot-tall granite pylons. The pylons are arranged in two rows of four each and between the two rows stands a bronze statue of an eagle, erected on a black granite pedestal and facing the Statue of Liberty
I got the subway beneath the Hudson to Brooklyn and on my walk home – stopped in to see a movie (Inception) and the theatre provided a great view of where i’d come to proudly call home
We had a guest over for dinner that evening so had a wonderful meal and then I went for a little walk which was very peaceful.