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Ellis Island

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Ellis Island

In the 1600's, Ellis Island was known as Gull Island by the Mohegan tribe and was simply two to three acres. During high tide, the island could barely have been seen above the rising waters. After being discovered for its rich oyster beds in 1628, Dutch settlers renamed it Oyster Island. And then in 1765, which was the hanging of Anderson the Pirate, the island was again renamed the Gibbet Island, after the instrument used to hang him. Finally on January 20, 1785, Samuel Ellis purchased the property and gave it his name, which is still the name of the island today, Ellis Island

After passing through a few generations of Ellis's descendents, the island was bought by the state of New York, and then sold to the federal government in 1808 for ten thousand dollars. During the years of 1812 to 1814, the United States Army erected Fort Gibson, which was eventually taken apart by the government in 1861. In 1876, the United States Navy used Ellis Island as a weapons warehouse, storing 260,000 pounds of powder. However, complaints from nearby New Jersey residents lead to the removal of the storage area in 1890.

The original station, Castle Garden at the Battery in lower Manhattan, could not handle all of the immigrants coming in. To have room for the immigrants, the island grew to 3.3 acres. In the next two years, Ellis was enlarged to fourteen acres in order to hold all of the immigrants and support buildings. By January 1, 1892, Ellis's first immigration station, a two story high structure of Georgia pine, was open ready for business

The most impressive room in the building was the registry room. It measured 200 feet by 100 feet, and had an impressive fifty-six foot arched ceiling. Twelve narrow aisles, divided by iron bars, channeled new arrivals to be examined by doctors at the front of the room. The officials who worked at the island, however, were not impressed by the architecture. In fact, they constantly complained of leaky roofs, and other problems within the building.

After long and heated arguments between experts, it was decided that the Superintendent of Construction was extremely inexperienced, and that there was "recklessness in the handling of public money," on the part of the Treasury Department and the Immigration Bureau of Officials. The entire building, excluding the hospitals, had been built shoddily. After news of the problems with the building had been in the media, a lot of people involved with the construction of the building resigned their positions. After that nothing else was done until 1987, a 250-bed dormitory building was built.

The island was forced to be shut down while an architect was chosen to come up with the plan for the new building. According to the Tarsney Act of 1893, a competition among architects would decide who would design and supervise the construction of the building. The winner

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