This plan included several things Sir Nerdalot really do not like; crowds, boat ride and – in his assumption – an uninteresting old building. He was rather “blah” about the whole thing, but was told to shut up and deal with it! And he did.
We took a ferry ride from Castle Clinton, built in 1811 on a small artificial island just off shore, originally named West Battery. The intention of West Battery was to complement East Battery in the defence of New York City from British forces in the War of 1812 (not all Europeans see this as a war in its own right, but you find a lot of info if you google it as the War of 1812). Anyways, the West Battery was built to keep people out. Now, it invites people in.
By a landfill that expanded Battery Park, the fort was incorporated into the mainland of Manhattan Island (1855?) It became property of the city after the war and renamed Castle Clinton after Mayor DeWitt Clinton. It had other uses for some years (beer garden and theatre). From 1855 Castle Clinton served as the world’s first immigration station, where more than 8 million people arrived in the U.S. from 1855 to 1890.
The ferry brought us to Liberty Island, where we had the option of getting off the boat and explore the rather small island by ourselves. This is a hop-on, hop-off ferry, and it’s no biggie if you miss one ferry, the next one comes shortly after. We chose not to get off at Liberty Island, as we got enough pictures of the Statue of Liberty already, and
we I was anxious to get onwards to Ellis Island.
The Statue of Liberty or as the French say: La Liberté éclairant le monde (Liberty Enlightening the World) is a huge neoclassical copper sculpture on Liberty Island in the New York Harbor, designed by the French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, built by Gustave Eiffel and dedicated on Oct 28, 1886. It was a gift from the people of France to the United States. The statue represents a Roman Goddess, Libertas who bears a torch and a tablet evoking the law – tabula ansata where the date of the American Declaration of Independence is inscribed. She has a broken chain lying at her feet. One can only imagine what a welcoming sight the statue must have been for the arriving immigrants – I can only imagine what it must have felt like seing her face.
The next stop on the ferry is Ellis Island, and here we hopped off. The Immigrant Station at Ellis Island was opened Jan 1st, 1892. When it closed, over 20 million immigrants had passed through the island – of which only approx. 2% were refused and returned to their homelands.
The museum at Ellis Island gives a good insight in what the immigrants had to go through. I feel that Hollywood for the most part portrays this as a simple process that is done in no time at all, but in reality it was more complex than that. Just imagine selling everything you own to pay for a ticket to a foreign land, and after weeks upon end onboard a ship, and not necessarily under the most comfortable conditions, you go ashore on Ellis Island where a series of medical and other examinations awaits you, and you do not understand what is going on what so ever, and do not speak the language. All you know is that you stand in line for a long time, then a new line. Visiting the museum was an emotional experience, and even Sir Nerdalot really appreciated this visit to The Greatest Immigration Museum in the World!
Just one word of advice before I end this post with a bunch of pictures: Ellis Island is not the place to get a gourmet-category meal, stay clear of the cafeteria if you can.