Island a complex of one natural and two artificial islands in Upper New
York Bay, southeastern New York, near Manhattan. The complex belongs to
the United States government. From 1892-1954 it was the headquarters of
an immigration and naturalization district of the U.S. The original
island was called Oyster Island by the early Dutch colonists; it was later
known as Gibbet Island, after a pirate was hanged there in 1765. Samuel
Ellis, a merchant of New York City, bought the island in the 18th century
and gave it his name. From Ellis it passed to New York State; it was bought
from the state by the federal government in 1808, and for a time it served
as a federal arsenal. In 1892, when Castle Garden, the immigration station
at the Battery in lower Manhattan, could no longer handle the flow of immigrants,
the reception center was transferred to Ellis Island. In 1898 and 1905,
the two additional islands were created by dumping earth and rock nearby.
It is estimated that about 16 million immigrants entered the United States
through Ellis Island. Due to declining immigration, the Immigration Service
closed the station in 1954 and transferred its activities to Manhattan.
In 1990 the former immigration station was dedicated as a museum, after
undergoing a 6 year long renovation. It contains documents and artifacts
related to four centuries of American immigration.