Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration (New York City, U.S.A)

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration

Aside from the Statue of Liberty National Monument on Liberty Island, the Statue Cruises round trip ferry transportation tickets we bought at Battery Park also included Ellis Island National Immigration Museum on Ellis Island in Upper New York Bay.

Ellis Island

After our tour of Liberty Island and its iconic Statue of Liberty, we all returned to the pier and queued up to board another Statue Cruise ferry for the short 10-min. (2.1 mile) trip to nearby, much smaller Ellis Island. Since 1808, the island has been owned and administered by the federal government of the United States  and, since 1965, operated by the National Park Service.

Check out “Statue of Liberty National Monument

Then and now. Crowds such as these were a common sight

Here are some interesting trivia regarding the island:

  • From 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island was the United State’s largest and most active immigration station.
  • The original Ellis Island was the site of Fort Gibson (initially called Crown Fort, it was renamed after Col. James Gibson of the 4th Regiment of Riflemen, killed in the Siege of Fort Erieduring the War of 1812) and, later, a naval magazine.
  • The gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the U.S. processed by the S. Bureau of Immigration, it was the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years (1892 – 1954).
  • Opened January 1, 1892, the island was, between 1892 and 1934, greatly expanded with land reclamation with the help of excess earth from the construction of New York City’s subway (and other projects). Today, the island has a land area of 11.1 hectares (27.5 acres), most of which is part of New Jersey.   It was long considered part of New York, but a 1998 United States Supreme Court decision found that most of the island is in  New Jersey. A contiguous area of 1.3 hectares (3.3 acres) is part of New York.
  • During and immediately following World War II, was designated as a permanent holding facility and was used to hold German merchant mariners and “enemy aliens” (Axis nationals detained for fear of spying, sabotage, and other fifth column activity). In December 1941, Ellis Island held 279 Japanese, 248 Germans, and 81 Italians removed from the East Coast.  A total of 7,000 Germans, Italians and Japanese would be ultimately detained at Ellis Island. It was also a processing center for returning sick or wounded U.S. soldiers, and a Coast Guard training base.
  • Its U.S. Marine Hospital Number 43, more widely known as the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, was the nation’s largest marine hospital. This extensive medical service at the immigrant station was operated here, from early 1902 to 1930, by United States Public Health Service to support the activities of the United States Bureau of Immigration.
  • Over 100 million Americans, about one-third to 40% of the population of the United States, are descendants of those immigrants who arrived in America at Ellis Island before dispersing to points all over the country.
  • Many reasons these immigrants came to the United States included escaping political and economic oppression, as well as persecution, destitution, and violence.
  • Ellis Island has been a source of inspiration or used as a subject in popular culture. Its imagery or representation has been employed in literature (including novels, short stories and poetry), in song, musical composition, dance, theatre, including vaudeville, burlesque, musical comedy, revue, legitimate theatre, motion pictures (silent and sound), newsreels, and in radio and television.

The Grand Hall

The first station, a three-story-tall wooden structure built of Georgia Pine, opened with fanfare on January 1, 1892 but, on June 15, 1897, a fire of unknown origin, possibly caused by faulty wiring, reduced it to ashes. No one was killed but most of the immigration records, dating back to 1855, of about 1.5 million immigrants that had been processed at the first building during its five years of use were destroyed.

The station’s new Main Building, one of the most symbolically important structures in American history, now houses the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.  It was designed by Architects Edward Lippincott Tilton and William Alciphron Boring (who both received a gold medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition for the building’s design) and the building was built at a cost of US$1.5 million.

Opened on December 17, 1900, the immigration station closed on November 12, 1954 and the buildings fell into disrepair and were abandoned. Attempts at redeveloping the site were unsuccessful until, on October 15, 1965, Ellis Island was proclaimed a part of Statue of Liberty National Monument and, exactly one year later, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The design for the significant restoration and adaptive use of the Beaux-Arts Main Building to its 1918 – 1924 appearance was undertaken by the Boston-based architectural firm Finegold Alexander + Associates Inc, together with the New York architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle. Built with a construction budget of US$150 million (raised by a campaign organized by the political fundraiser Wyatt A. Stewart), the building reopened on September 10, 1990.

Statue of Annie Moore, a 15 year old, rosy-cheeked Irish girl who was one of the 148 steerage passengers landed from the Guion steamship Nevada.  She is now distinguished by being the first registered in the book of the new landing bureau

On May 20, 2015, coinciding with the opening of the new Peopling of America galleries, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum was officially renamed the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.

Face of an immigrant

This French Renaissance Revival-style museum, built of red brick with limestone trim, tells the moving tales of the immigrants who entered America through the golden door of Ellis Island.

The Baggage Room

The newly completed Peopling of America Center was architectural designed by Highland Associates, with construction executed by Phelps Construction Group.

As part of the National Park Service’s Centennial Initiative, the entire south side of the island, called by some the “sad side” of the island, is closed to the general public.

Some of the 28 unrestored buildings

It is the object of restoration efforts spearheaded by Save Ellis Island to restore the 28 buildings (including the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital) that have not yet been rehabilitated.  The New Ferry Building, built in the Art Deco style to replace an earlier one, was renovated in 2008 but remains only partially accessible to the general public.

Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital

In 2008, the museum’s library was officially named the Bob Hope Memorial Library in honor of the late comedian Bob Hope, one the station’s most famous immigrants. The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is awarded annually at ceremonies on the island.

The author and son Jandy at the Grand Hall

The museum’s self-guided exhibits tell the entire story of American immigration, including before and after the Ellis Island era, and chronicles Ellis Island’s role in immigration history.  It includes artifacts, photographs, prints, videos, interactive displays, oral histories and temporary exhibits:

  • The World Migration Globe features a radiant sphere which illustrates migration patterns around the world throughout human history.
  • Journeys: The Peopling of America – 1550s – 1890, located in the historic Railroad Ticket Office, is an exhibit, designed by ESI Design and fabricated by Hadley Exhibits, Inc., dedicated to exploring the earliest arrivals pre-dating the Ellis Island Era (1550-1890).  It bookends the Ellis Island era by chronicling immigration to America before the processing station opened in 1892 and after it closed in 1954, right up to the present. Here, visitors can move through the various galleries displaying each stage of the immigrant journey.
  • The Journey: New Eras of Immigration Exhibit, focusing on immigration from 1954 to present times, uses dynamic media and interactive elements to display the post-war immigration movement and changing demographic trends over the decades.
  • The American Family Immigration History Center is an exciting interactive area where you can access the passenger records of the ships that landed almost 65 million immigrants, crew members and other travelers at the Port of New York and Ellis Island from 1820 to 1957.
  • The American Immigrant Wall of Honor, outside of the main building, is the only place in the United States where an individual can honor his or her family heritage at a National Monument.  This permanent exhibit of individual or family names celebrating the immigrant experience contains a partial list of immigrants processed on the island. Inclusion on the list is made possible by a donation to support the facility..  It overlooks the Statue of Liberty behind a beautiful view of the New York skyline.
  • The American Flag of Faces, at the museum’s main entrance hall, is an interactive, animated display populated with images uploaded by individuals and families, which creates  a montage of the American flag.

A lady park ranger delivering a 5-min. talk before showing of “Island of Hope, Island of Tears” at Theater 2

There are also three theaters used for film and live performances. At Theater 2 (with a maximum limit of 140 people per showing), we watched the 30-min.,  award-winning film documentary “Island of Hope, Island of Tears,”  directed by Charles Guggenheim, which reveals how and why millions of immigrants journeyed across the world to Ellis Island, hoping for a better life for themselves and their descendants.

L-R: Grace, Kyle and Cheska

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration: Ellis Island, New York City 10004, New York, U.S.A.  Tel: +1 646 356 2150.  Open daily (except December 25), 8:30 AM – 7 PM.

St. Augustine Catholic Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)

St. Augustine Catholic Church

The historic and pretty ornate St. Augustine Catholic  Church (also called Olde St. Augustine’s), built to replace the Old St. Augustine Church (the first Order of Hermits of St. Augustine church founded in the United States) which was completed in 1801 and burned down in the anti-Catholic Philadelphia Nativist Riots on May 8, 1844  (all that remained was the back wall of the altar), was designed by architect  Napoleon LeBrun who also designed Philadelphia landmarks as the Academy of Music (eventual home of the Philadelphia Orchestra) and the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.

The church’s Palladian-style facade

The present church, whose cornerstone was laid on May 27, 1847, was completed in December 1848 and consecrated by Bishop Francis Kenrick and Archbishop John Hughes who presided over High Mass on November 5, 1848.

The main entrance

In 1922, the altar area underwent significant restoration and change, the vestibule of the church was changed significantly and stairs were put in when 4th Street was excavated to pass under the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The nave of the church is original. The color in the brick facade of the church indicates where the original church brick ends and where the 1922 brick begins. On June 15, 1976, the church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The magnificent interior

On December 1992, a severe storm severely damaged the church’s steeple whose debris fell onto the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, closing for three days. The damaged steeple had to be disassembled and removed. A 50-ft. chasm opened in the church roof caused the priceless painting and murals inside to suffer water damage. On October 18, 1995, a new steeple was erected.

Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) meets the scared Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) inside the church in The Sixth Sense

The interior and exterior of St. Augustine’s Church was featured in the 1999 M. Night Shyamalan spooky thriller The Sixth Sense (where Bruce Willis, as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, and Haley Joel Osment, as Cole Sear, meet for the first time) and the 2007 action movie Shooter  (in which the church’s bell tower figures in an assassination plot).

The Shooter

This church is the parish of choice of many Filipino-American Catholics (who increased the congregation’s numbers in the 1990s) from Philadelphia, the city’s suburbs and the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware). In fact, on January 11, 1992, an exact replica of Santo Niño de Cebú was installed and dedicated here and Filipinos have held a special mass and festivals (also called Sinulog) for the Santo Niño, making it the National Shrine for devotion to Santo Nino in North America.

This Palladian-style (an Italian-Renaissance variant) church, with its non-cruciform plan, has a flat, decorated roof, semicircular arched window, an enormous cleaving balcony and two sets of stained glass windows, each dedicated to a saint. The impressive, ornate foyer, though lower than the church (you need to take another set of stairs to go up into the church), is treated like a part of the interior.

The main arched altar, framed by an archway supported by brown Corinthian columns flanked by flying angels, consists of white marble with shafts of Mexican onyx bordering the tabernacle. Behind the altar is a Crucifixion tableau, painted by Hans Hansen in 1926, crowned by the words “The Lord Seeth.” Above it sits a domed skylight.  The wrap-around, 3-sided gallery essentially divides the space vertically in half.

The main altar

The beautiful ceiling frescoes, depicting scenes from “St. Augustine in Glory,” as well as murals on either side of the altar were painted by Philip Costaggini (who painted part of the frieze on the rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.) in 1884 and are the oldest in any church in America.

Statue of St. Nicholas Tolentine at the ornate foyer

Statue of St. Thomas of Villanova

St. Augustine Catholic Church: 243 North Lawrence St., PhiladelphiaPennsylvania 19106, United States.  Tel: +1 215-627-1838. Fax: 215-627-3911. E-mail: staugustineparish09@gmail.com.  Website: www.st-augustinechurch.com. Mass schedules: Mondays – Fridays: 12:05 PM (10 AM during legal holidays), Saturdays (Vigil – 5:15 PM) and Sundays (9 AM, 11 AM and 7 PM). Novena prayers to Santo Nino are held after the 11 AM Sunday Mass. Open Mondays to Fridays, 9 AM to 5 PM; weekends, 9 AM to the conclusion of the evening masses.

30th Street Station (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)

30th Street Station

The 52,000 m² (562,000 ft²) 30th Street Station, the main railroad station in Philadelphia and one of the seven stations in Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority‘s (SEPTA) Center City fare zone, sits across from the former United States Post Office-Main Branch. A major stop on Amtrak‘s (National Railroad Passenger Corporation) Northeast and Keystone Corridors, it is Amtrak’s 3rd-busiest station and the busiest of the 24 stations served in Pennsylvania. On an average day in 2013, about 11,300 people boarded or left trains in Philadelphia, nearly twice as many as in the rest of the Pennsylvania stations combined. This was to be our entry point to Philadelphia (from New York City) and exit point from Philadelphia to Baltimore (Maryland).

The main concourse

Originally known as the Pennsylvania Station–30th Street (in accord with the naming style of other Pennsylvania Stations), the enormous, steel-framed structure was designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White (the successor to D.H. Burnham & Company). Construction began in 1927 and the station opened in 1933, starting with two platform tracks.

The author and son Jandy at the waiting area

From 1988-1991, the building was restored and renovated, at a cost of US$75 million,  by Dan Peter Kopple & Associates, with updated retail amenities added including several shops, a large food court, car rental facilities, Saxby’s CoffeeDunkin’ Donuts, both in the South Arcade and South Concourse, and others.

Dunkin’ Donut outlet

Above the passenger areas, 280,000 sq. ft. of office space was modernized to house approximately 1,100 Amtrak employees.  The former mail handling facility was converted into an underground parking garage. The 30th Street Station is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Train Schedule Display Board

The building’s architecturally interesting exterior, an adaptation and transformation of Neo-Classical elements into a more modern, streamlined Art Deco architectural style, has a pair of soaring, columned porte-cocheres on the west and east façade, its best known features.

Waiting Area

The cavernous, 290 by 135 ft. main passenger concourse, notable for its stylistic and functional elements, has ornate Art Deco décor, with a vast waiting room faced with travertine and a soaring  coffered ceiling, painted gold, red and cream, with beautiful chandeliers.

Ticket offices

Works of art are located throughout the building. Prominently displayed within the waiting area is the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, sculpted in 1950 by Walker Hancock. Honoring 1,307 Pennsylvania Railroad employees (listed in alphabetical order on the four sides of the base of that sculpture) killed in World War II (out of the more than 54,000 who served), it consists of a bronze statue of the archangel Michael lifting the body of a dead soldier out of the flames of war.

Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial

The Spirit of Transportation, a bas relief sculpture of Karl Bitter, was executed in 1895 and originally placed in the waiting room of Broad Street Station, Philadelphia. On January, 1955, it was moved to current site in the North Waiting Room. The Spirit of Transportation is represented in triumphal procession of progress. It features a central female figure sitting in a horse-drawn carriage, while children cradle models of a steamship, steam locomotive and dirigible, a prophetic vision of a mode of transportation to come.

Spirit of Transportation bas-relief sculpture

The station was featured in the 1981 film Blow Out, the 1983 film Trading Places, the 1985 film Witness, the 2000 film Unbreakable, the 2010 video game Heavy RainAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Episode 7, and the 2015 film The Visit. It is within walking distance of various attractions in West Philadelphia, notably the University of PennsylvaniaDrexel University, and the University City Science Center, all in University City. 

Kyle, Grace, Cheska and Jandy waiting for our train to Baltimore at the train platform

30th Street Station: 2955 Market Street, PhiladelphiaPennsylvaniaUnited States