Monday, June 04, 2007

Playing Tourist: Visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Because one ferry boat ride was not enough last weekend, we took the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island on Sunday.

Visiting the Statue of Liberty was not high on my list of things to do, but I did want to see Ellis Island. We ended up visiting both sites and the Statue of Liberty was better than I expected.

The picture below is the classic tourist picture, the Statue of Liberty from the ferry boat.

Once you are on Liberty Island you get some great views of the Statue.

And great views of the Lower Manhattan skyline. We were there on an overcast day, visibility wasn't great - but we could still make out the Empire State Building (very hard to see in the photo - on the left hand side kind of set back from the rest of the skyline).

This picture isn't really much different than the one with Michael, but I think it makes me look thin so it is getting posted! The vantage point is on the pedestal base. The base is part of an old fort and is in the shape of an eleven pointed star. The site is filled with Masonic images - many discovered as they were preparing the site for the Statue of Liberty.

The back side of Liberty.

After touring the museum and climbing up to the highest observation deck we took the ferry to Ellis Island.

Only one building at Ellis Island has been restored and is open to visitors. The rest of the buildings look incredible from the distance, but when you get a closer look you can see they are falling apart and a mess on the inside.

The original structure at Ellis Island was made of wood and opened on 1/1/1892. The building and its records were destroyed in a fire five years later. The new building (made of stone) was opened on 12/17/1900. From that day until about the mid-1920's this building processed on average 5,000 people per day. The record was 11,747 people processed on April 17, 1907. About 12 million immigrants came through Ellis Island and 100 million people in the US today can trace their roots back to Ellis Island.

The French Renaissance-style building is an amazing site to see, even 100 years after it first opened its doors.

Inside the building they have many different displays. One wing walks you through how the immigration process typically worked. Other wing highlight displays of personal items brought with immigrants and now donated back to the historical site (my favorite was a rolling pin, how angry would some husband be carrying a a big heavy rolling pin half way across the world). One of the displays I found most interesting, was original passenger manifests. They listed each passenger name, age, gender, occupation, place of birth, and destination in the US. All unmarried woman had the occupation of 'spinster' no matter her age or real occupation.

Pictured below is the Great Hall. This was the main waiting room. Here immigrants would be inspected by doctors and wait to speak with an immigration officer. The room is amazing - it is one of the places where you can just feel the history. It is really overwhelming to think of all the people that came to the US and how that has shaped our country today.

If you want to research your family history check out:
You can search their records (for free!).