Ellis Island

New York City-Day 3…Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

This is our view from the subway platform at Astoria in Queens, New York.  Looks very suburban New Yorkish.


We had been to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island back in the summer of 2000, but access to the crown was closed.  When we knew we were coming to New York, we booked early enough to secure a spot.  Our assigned time to catch the boat to Liberty island was at 11:00 am.  We took the subway to Battery Park.  The area and park are named for the artillery batteries that were positioned there to protect the settlements.

There are several military memorials as well as the Clinton Castle also known as Fort Clinton.  It was built in the run-up to the War of 1812 but never saw any military action. It served as an immigration station until 1890, when Ellis Island opened.

We picked up our tickets at will call and because we had Crown Access tickets, we were able to stand in a shorter line for the ferry boat.

3,000,000 people a year visit the Statue of Liberty.  She is 305 feet tall or 22 stories high.  When it was constructed in 1886, it was the tallest structure in North America. The statue was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel.  It was a gift from the people of France, but had an underlying tone to show Napoleon III how unhappy the French were with their living conditions and freedoms. The statue is purposely placed to face toward France, so as to stare at the “old” world.   The French politician Laboulaye suggested that France pay for the statue and the US would pay for the pedestal.  Fundraising for the pedestal was slow until Joseph Pulitzer, editor of the New York World, stepped in and asked his readers to donate.  It took 6 months, but 120,000 people donated, most donating less than a dollar, to provide the funds for the pedestal.

Her official name is “Liberty Enlightening the World”.   She has the nickname of Lady Liberty, as she is wearing a Roman cloak symbolizing the Goddess Libertas.  Her waist is 35 feet around.  Her arm is 42 feet long and 12 feet around  Her head is 17 feet high and her fingernail is as long as a person’s forearm.

Batholdi came to the US in 1871 and decided that the pedestal be constructed on Fort Wood which was built in 1810 on what was then known as Bedloe’s Island.

There is an audio tour that is free, you just have to pick up the head phones.  We were told to go straight to the crown and grab the head phones later.  We wished we would have grabbed the audio tour, walked around the island, and then went inside and stopped at the museum on the pedestal before going to the crown.  Since we went straight to the crown, we missed the museum.  We did get to see the original Torch, which was removed in 1984 due to damage.   Access to the torch has been closed since 1916 due to safety concerns.

There are 377 steps if you choose to walk the whole way up and not take the elevator to the pedestal.  We chose to take the stairs, but did stop on the pedestal for a quick view of New York and Lady Liberty.

The Crown Access is a duel spiral staircase, with one side going up and one side coming down.

The inside of the statue is quite remarkable.  You can see every fold of her gown.  The skin is the thickness of 2 US pennies.  There are 300,000+ rivets attaching the copper skin to the frame.  It was originally designed to be made of a much thicker material and to be filled with sand. for support.  One of the original builders died and Eiffel was asked to finish the project.


When we reached the crown, a couple was getting engaged.  She was totally taken by surprise.

The windows are small and your time is limited due to space and other patrons entering, but it was worth the hike up the stairs.

The tablet she is holding in her hand reads: July IV MDCCLXXVI  in remembrance of the birth of America.


The seven spikes on her crown represent the 7 continents of the world.

The Statue of Liberty was unveiled on October 28, 1886, with President Grover Cleveland giving the dedication speech.

Pictures of the inside of the statue.  In the restoration leading up to the 100 year birthday on July 4, 1986, 1800 iron armatures bars were removed and replaced with stainless steel.

On our way back down…the stairs are steep!!

Back on the pedestal, we were able to look up at Lady Liberty.

Views of New York

We walked around the island.  There are some nice statues of the men who were involved in the statue, Eiffel, Bartholdi, Pulitzer, etc…

We just couldn’t get enough of looking at her as we walked around while listening to the audio tour.  The Statue’s green color is the weathered copper.  For the first 20 years it was a shiny copper like a penny color.  In symbolic fashion, Lady Liberty was built to show her walking away from a broken chain.

We had very much enjoyed our time on Liberty Island.  We got back on the ferry and headed to Ellis Island.  This was special to Cindy as her grandfather immigrated to the US in 1923.

Ellis Island was the main immigration point for the United States from 1892 -1954.  Before that is was known as Fort Gibson.  Named for a soldier who died in the siege for Fort Erie.  The island was expanded to accommodate the new buildings.  The expansion was possible with the dirt removed to build the New York subway system.

Immigrating through Ellis Island could be a confusing and frightening experience, but it was one that an immigrant must endure to enter the United States in the early 19th century.  Many came with only a small suitcase containing their most treasured possessions.


We walked up the stairs to the Registration Room.  This is where an immigrant was given a quick medical examination.

They would then wait for their name to be announced.   Before arriving on Ellis Island, the immigrant name was entered into the ship’s manifest and information about the nationality and where and with whom they would be living.


There were 29 questions that could be asked, but most immigrants where only asked a few to verify the manifest information.  Depending on the answers, you were sent down a set of stairs known as the Stairs of Separation.  At the bottom were 3 doors.  The left door was for those who were approved to take the ferry to New York.  The middle door was for those who were being detained.  The Right door led to the railroad ticket office for those travelling to a destination other than New York.  (It was interesting, watching, as visitors learned what each door meant, no one went through the middle door).

For those who were detained, they were escorted to hearing rooms where they would present their case in front of 3 administrators. Some were also given a series of test for mental capacity.   2 out of the 3 had to approve the immigration.  20% of immigrants were detained for further questioning.

2% were denied entry and sent back to their home country.

Those who were detained were often moved to the dormitories or the hospital after their hearings for further evaluation.

Immigrants who were approved entry, then had several options….exchange of currency, send a telegram, passage to New York, and to purchase of food.

Ellis Island could be the most joyful place or one filled with sorrow.


There is an exhibit that follows the immigration history of the United States.

In the American Family Immigration History Center, you can pay a small fee to access the Ellis Island computers.  There is staff to help you navigate the process.  With assistance from a staff member, we were able to locate Cindy’s grandfather.  We looked at the manifest showing his name and the ship that he arrived on.  She was pretty excited.

Our time on Ellis Island had come to an end, but we had enjoyed the experience.  We boarded the ferry back to New York, with one last look at the Statue of Liberty on our way.

With time still left in the day, we boarded the subway and headed for Time Square.  It was a bustle of activity and people of all kinds.

There was an M&M activity center…

We decided to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe.  It was less expensive to have the appetizers and share them as a meal and it continued our tradition of visiting Hard Rock Cafes.

We ended the day with yummy cheesecake.

We rode the subway back to Astoria in Queens to get a good night rest.  Day 4 of our New York adventure awaited… biking through Central Park and the Empire State Building.