did immigrants arrive in NY?
Before August 1855 - wharfs of Manhattan
August 1, 1855- April 18, 1890 : Castle Garden
April 19, 1890-Dec. 31, 1891: Barge Office
January 1, 1892- June 13, 1897: Ellis Island
June 14, 1897 - Dec 16, 1900: Barge Office
December 17, 1900-1924: Ellis Island
NY State founded the United States' first center for processing
arriving immigrants in 1855. It was established on an island off
the southwest tip of Manhattan - Castle Garden. It was hoped that
a receiving station off the mainland would serve two purposes :
to prevent people with contagious diseases from entering the
country and help arriving immigrants from the hazards of fraud,
robbery and deceit when they first arrived.
Before the creation of Castle Garden in 1855 passengers were
allowed to disembark directly from the ship onto the wharfs of
Manhattan. Then a small island was earmarked for processing
immigrants, called Castle Garden. It housed a fort facing a
similar fort on Governor's Island which were designed to prevent
unfriendly ship traffic from moving up the East River.
Garden was New York's immigrant landing center from 1855 to 1890.
From 1896 to 1941 it was New York City's Aquarium. Today Castle
Garden is called Castle Clinton National Monument. It serves as a
visitor information center for New York's National Parks and
Monuments. You can also purchase tickets there for ferry trips to
Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
On April 18, 1890 the Secretary of the Treasury terminated
the contract with the NY State Commissioners of Emigration and
assumed control of immigration of the harbor. NY officials were
very upset , and refused to allow the government to use Castle
Garden for immigration. Therefore, on April 19, 1890, the US
government established a temporary processing center for
immigrants at the Old Barge Office at the southeast foot of
Manhattan near the US Customs House. A small , swampy piece of
federally owned property was given to the Treasury Dept. to build
the first federal immigrant receiving station. It was called
Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892. It was constructed
entirely of wood, was three stories high and designed to
handle up to 10,000 immigrants a day. In 1891, the federal
government assumed jurisdiction over all ports, not just NY, so
processing centers were established at other ports.
Just before midnight on June 14, 1897 a fire broke out in the all
wooden building on Ellis Island and it burned to the ground. No
ship records were destroyed since they were kept elsewhere, but
all other administrative records for 1855-1890 were lost. The old
Barge Office was again used as a processing center for 3 1/2
years while the new Ellis Island building was built.
On December 17, 1900 the new steel, brick and stone building on
Ellis Island opened. However, it was too small from the start and
would have to be expanded many times.
So, while many of us say our ancestors arrived at Ellis Island -
this timeline should help you see where they _really_ arrived!
All ship manifests for Castle Garden and Ellis Island
arrivals (1820-1947) are available through any FHC or NARA
branch. Please see the section on Passenger Ships into NY for
information on searching them.
Ellis Island Timeline
1886 - Statue of liberty dedicated
1890 - Federal government establishes Bureau of
Immigration and selects Ellis Island as first federal
immigration facility; using ballast from incoming ships
as landfill, work begins to double the island's size
1892 - First immigrants pass through Ellis Island, led
by Annie Moore age 15 from Ireland
1897- Fire destroys original wood buildings
1900- New Beaux Arts-style immigration center opens at
a cost of more than $1 million
1901- In the first full year with the new facility,
Ellis Island handles 389,000 immigrants
1907- More than 1 million immigrants pass through Ellis
Island, including a record 11,747 in one day.
1917- Congress requires that all immigrants over 16 be
1921- First federal immigration quotas enacted.
1924- National Origins Law tightens quotas and moves
immigration processing abroad, under the direction of
1943- Ellis Island is used as a detention center for
1954- Ellis Island is closed and put up for sale as
surplus federal property.
1965- The National Park Service take over Ellis Island
1974- Federal government allocates $1 million for
Bicentennial cleanup of Ellis Island
1983- Restoration of the main building begins
1990- Ellis Island Immigration Museum opens after
nearly $170 million restoration.