Everything You Should Know About Ellis Island: History, Immigration Museum, & Visitor Guide


What is Ellis Island?

Ellis Island

Ellis Island is a small island located in the Upper New York Bay, near the mouth of the Hudson River in the United States. It holds immense historical significance as the primary gateway for millions of immigrants who arrived in America between 1892 and 1954. Serving as the nation's busiest immigrant inspection station, Ellis Island processed and admitted people seeking a new life and opportunities in the United States.

Today, Ellis Island is a National Museum of Immigration, preserving the stories and experiences of those who journeyed to America in pursuit of the American Dream. It serves as a poignant reminder of the nation's immigrant roots and the contributions made by generations of newcomers.

Knowledge Graph

  • Official name: Ellis Island
  • Address: Upper New York Bay, near the mouth of the Hudson River, United States
  • Date of opening: January 1, 1892
  • Timings: 9 AM to 6 PM
  • Architect: Edward Lippincott Tilton (main building)
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: Since 1984
  • Number of visitors per year: 2 million
  • Function: Museum and historical site

Why Visit Ellis Island?

Ellis Island
  • Immigrant experience: Explore the rich history of American immigration and experience the journey that millions of immigrants took to reach the United States. Gain insights into their stories, challenges, and dreams.
  • Historic landmark: Step foot in a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that served as the primary gateway for immigrants from 1892 to 1954. Immerse yourself in the preserved buildings and grounds that witnessed countless arrivals.
  • Museum exhibits: Discover engaging museum exhibits that showcase personal artifacts, photographs, and interactive displays, offering a glimpse into the immigrant experience.
  • Genealogy resources: Uncover your own family's immigration history at the American Family Immigration History Center. Access passenger records, ship manifests, and embark on a personal journey of discovery.

Plan Your Visit to Ellis Island

Ellis Island

What are Ellis Island’s Opening Hours?

Timings: 9 AM to 6 PM

Closed: Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day

Last admission: One hour before closing time.

Best time to visit: To avoid large crowds, visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon on a weekday.

Where is Ellis Island Located? - Ellis Island

Where is Ellis Island Located?

Ellis Island is located in Upper New York Bay, near the mouth of the Hudson River, in the United States. It is located approximately 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) southwest of Battery Park, Manhattan.

Address: Upper New York Bay, near the mouth of the Hudson River, United States | Find on Maps

Closest ferry station: Liberty State Park

Things to Do at Ellis Island

Ellis Island

Ellis Island National Immigration Museum

Immerse yourself in the compelling exhibits that tell the story of American immigration. Explore the Peopling of America galleries, view personal artifacts, and discover the challenges and triumphs of those who passed through Ellis Island.

Immigrant Wall of Honor - Ellis Island

Immigrant Wall of Honor

Pay tribute to your ancestors or explore the names of millions of immigrants inscribed on the Wall of Honor. This symbolic wall commemorates the diverse individuals who arrived at Ellis Island and contributed to the fabric of American society.

Ellis Island

American Family Immigration History Center

Trace your own family's immigration journey at the center. Access records, passenger manifests, and explore the database to uncover valuable information about your ancestors who passed through Ellis Island.

History of Ellis Island in a Nutshell

Ellis Island

Ellis Island holds a fascinating history that spans centuries and represents a significant chapter in American immigration. The island, originally known as "Kioshk" by the Lenape tribe, was later renamed Ellis Island in honor of its previous owner, Samuel Ellis. 

The immigration era of Ellis Island began in 1892 when it opened as the main entry point for millions of immigrants seeking a new life in America. The federal government decided to establish a centralized immigration processing center to regulate the influx of newcomers. On January 1, 1892, the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island was Annie Moore, a 15-year-old Irish girl.

The main building, designed by Edward Lippincott Tilton, opened in 1900 after the original wooden structures were destroyed in a fire. It became a symbol of hope and opportunity for millions. From 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island processed over 12 million immigrants, including individuals from various countries, such as Italy, Ireland, Germany, and Eastern Europe. Immigrants underwent medical examinations, legal inspections, and interviews to determine their eligibility for entry into the United States.

While Ellis Island served as a gateway to the American dream, it also witnessed periods of challenges and changes. The Immigration Act of 1924 imposed stricter immigration quotas, leading to a decline in immigration through Ellis Island. During World War II, Ellis Island served as a detention and deportation center for enemy aliens. After 1954, the island's role as an immigration station came to an end, and the buildings fell into disrepair.

Immigration Museum

In the 1980s, extensive restoration efforts revitalized Ellis Island, and the main building was transformed into the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, which opened in 1990. Today, Ellis Island stands as a significant historical landmark, preserving the stories, struggles, and triumphs of generations of immigrants who helped shape the multicultural fabric of the United States. It serves as a poignant reminder of the nation's immigrant heritage and the enduring spirit of those who sought a better life on American shores.

Who Built Ellis Island?

Built Ellis Island - Ellis Island

The main building of Ellis Island, known as the Ellis Island Immigration Station, was designed by the architectural firm of Boring & Tilton. The principal architect responsible for the design was Edward Lippincott Tilton. 

Construction of the main building began in 1900, replacing the original wooden structures that were destroyed by fire in 1897. Tilton's design incorporated elements of the French Renaissance Revival architectural style, giving the building its distinctive appearance. The construction of additional buildings on Ellis Island was carried out by various architects and contractors over the years to accommodate the growing number of immigrants.

Architecture of Ellis Island

The architecture of Ellis Island reflects the styles prevalent during its construction and subsequent modifications. 

Architecture of Ellis Island - Ellis Island

  • Main Building: The main building of Ellis Island, designed by architect Edward Lippincott Tilton, exhibits elements of the French Renaissance Revival style. The building features a red brick façade, intricate detailing, and ornate ironwork. Its grandeur and imposing presence symbolized the significance of Ellis Island as a gateway to the United States. The Ellis Island National Immigration Museum is located within the main building.
  • Main Hall: The central hall of the main building is the Great Hall, which served as the primary processing area for immigrants. It boasts a high, vaulted ceiling adorned with decorative plasterwork, large arched windows, and a tiled floor. The Great Hall provided a spacious and awe-inspiring entry point for immigrants arriving at Ellis Island.
  • Additional Buildings: Over the years, Ellis Island expanded with the construction of additional buildings to accommodate the growing influx of immigrants. These buildings were designed in various architectural styles, reflecting the evolving needs and aesthetics of the time.
  • Island Layout: The overall layout of Ellis Island includes a central axis with buildings flanking the main pathway. The organization of structures created a functional and efficient flow for the processing of immigrants, while also showcasing the architectural design of the complex.
  • Restorations: Following years of neglect and deterioration, extensive restoration efforts were undertaken in the 1980s to revitalize Ellis Island. The restoration aimed to preserve and recreate the architectural elements and historical features of the buildings, ensuring the authenticity and integrity of the site.

The architectural elements of Ellis Island, with its mix of styles and the grandeur of the main building, contribute to the historical significance and visual appeal of this iconic landmark.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Ellis Island

What is Ellis Island?

Ellis Island is a small island located in the Upper New York Bay, near the mouth of the Hudson River. It served as the primary immigration station in the United States from 1892 to 1954.

Where is Ellis Island?

Ellis Island is located in the Upper New York Bay, close to the Statue of Liberty.

How do I get to Ellis Island?

To reach Ellis Island, you can take a ferry from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, New York City or Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

How much does it cost to visit Ellis Island?

Tickets to visit Ellis Island and Liberty Island start from $29.

How long does it take to visit Ellis Island?

We recommend spending around two to three hours at Ellis Island.

What are the Ellis Island opening hours?

Ellis Island is accessible between 9 AM and 6 PM daily.

Can I visit Ellis Island without going to the Statue of Liberty?

Yes, it is possible to visit Ellis Island without going to the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are separate attractions, but they are often visited together due to their close proximity. However, if you wish to visit only Ellis Island, you can take a ferry directly to Ellis Island from Battery Park or Liberty State Park.

Can I bring food and drinks to Ellis Island?

Yes, you can bring food and non-alcoholic drinks to Ellis Island.

Are there guided tours of Ellis Island available?

Yes, guided tours led by knowledgeable tour guides are available on Ellis Island. These tours provide in-depth information about the history, architecture, and immigrant experience. Book your guided tours here.

Can I explore Ellis Island on my own or do I need a guided tour?

You can explore Ellis Island on your own without a guided tour. The museum exhibits are designed to be self-guided, allowing you to explore them at your own pace. However, guided tours can enhance your experience and provide additional insights into the site's history and significance.

Are there audio guides available at Ellis Island?

Yes, audio guides are available for rent at Ellis Island. These audio tours provide informative commentary about the exhibits and the history of Ellis Island.

Is Ellis Island accessible for individuals with disabilities?

Yes, Ellis Island is accessible for individuals with disabilities. The main building and exhibits are wheelchair accessible, and there are elevators available for convenient access to different levels. Additionally, accessible restrooms and other facilities are provided to ensure a comfortable visit for all visitors.