EXHIBITION: Alone in America

Between 1855 and 1889, some 8,000,000 immigrants arrived at the New York State immigration depot at Castle Garden which was situated on the site of Castle Clinton, the circular stone fort built at the Battery before the War of 1812 to protect New York Harbor. It was designated the immigrant landing depot in 1855. The first Commissioner of Immigration included Gregory Dillon, President of the Irish Emigration Society. The facility protected new arrivals from predatory individuals offering to change money, to guide the immigrant or to lure innocent girls into brothels.

In 1890, the control of immigration passed from state to federal jurisdiction. They used the Barge Office at the Battery until their facility at Ellis Island was complete. The Immigration depot opened on January 1, 1892. Annie Moore from County Cork was the first immigrant to step off the tender at Ellis Island. That first facility, a timber building, was destroyed by fire in 1897. The Barge Office was called upon again from 1897 until 1900 to serve arriving immigrants. The Moorish, brick building with its distinctive turrets at each corner opened on December 17th 1900; in 1990, Ellis Island was reopened as a National Monument and interpretive center for the study of immigration.

Immigrants arrived at the Ellis Island’s ferry slip and proceeded up the stairs to the registry area. En route they were quickly checked by public health officials. Those with health issues were transferred to the Ellis Island hospital. Those who passed the health screening were processed and collected their luggage and proceeded to city-bound ferries.

Mission agents, Patrick Mc Coole and later Patrick McDonough escorted the girls to the Mission who had neither family nor friend to meet them.