In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast, causing many historical sites, including Ellis Island, to be temporarily shuttered. But on Oct. 28, 2013, the former immigration hub was reopened to the public for the first time since the storm. As visitors arrived, they were able to witness history firsthand.
Located just off the southern tip of Manhattan, Ellis Island was the primary point of entry into the U.S. for many immigrants between 1892 to 1924. During that time, the island acted as a processing center for immigrants coming into the country, in an era when the U.S. allowed a higher quota of immigrants.
Immigration slowed during World War I, and Ellis Island was used as a military base and hospital. However, in 1921 the island welcomed 560,971 immigrants. The Immigration Act of 1924 restricted the United States’ total immigration quota to 164,000, ending the mass immigration period in America.
When visitors go to Ellis Island, they can look for the names of those who passed through its gates. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., works to maintain the island and the Statue of Liberty. They offer genealogy services and develop exhibits on the island.
Though the island has not fully recovered from Sandy, and the more than 1 million historical photos are still in storage, the island was still reopened Oct. 28. David Luchsinger, superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, which includes Ellis Island, wanted to open the site on that specific date because it was 127 birthday of the Statue of Liberty.
“It feels wonderful to be able to welcome visitors again,” he told The New York Times. “It’s overwhelming.”
The majority of the building’s structure was stable during the storm in 2012. However, the flood surge sent water streaming into the basement, where most of the historical artifacts were kept. Workers moved more than two-thirds of the the site’s inventory before the storm.