What Are Some Interesting Facts About Ellis Island?


Quick Answer

Ellis Island was first used by colonists as a place to collect oysters. It became a military fort before going on to become the most well-known immigration checkpoint in the United States starting in 1892.

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Full Answer

The island was owned by a series of private owners before being acquired by the state of New York in the late 18th century. It was purchased by the federal government in 1808. It was initially home to Fort Gibson, a military installation for coastal defense.

The transition to becoming the Ellis Island immigration station in 1890 also marked the transfer of immigration processing duties from individual states to the federal government. The first immigrant processed at the new station was Annie Moore of Ireland.

The initial immigration station was short-lived, as a fire destroyed it completely in 1897. There were no casualties, but many immigration records were lost. A new fireproof building was constructed and opened its doors in 1900. The facilities was continually expanded from 1900 to 1915 as millions of immigrants traveled to the United States. Only about 2 percent of arriving immigrants were excluded during this period, most frequently due to failing a medical examination or on suspicion of becoming an illegal contract laborer.

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