Over the course of more than sixty years, from 1892 to 1954, the immigration station at Ellis Island processed millions of immigrants who traveled from all over the world to start a new life in America. Before immigration services were conducted on the island, the land played a significant role in the history of New York City since as far back as when Native Americans controlled the land. Through colonial times and later as federally property, Ellis Island has served many purposes through the centuries. Here are nine ways Ellis Island has been used for reasons other than immigration processing:
To learn more of the secrets and history of Ellis Island, join an upcoming tour of the abandoned hospital complex on the island’s south side! This weekend, you can explore with Untapped Cities on a Behind-the-Scenes Hard Hat Tour or Unframed JR Tour.
1. Oyster Island
Illustration by John White of Native American men and women fishing in a dugout canoe. Image from Library of Congress
Before the European colonists came to America, Algonquin speaking Native American tribes used Ellis Island to harvest food. The island contained large oyster beds and was also a spot where Native Americans could also fish for clams and crabs and hunt for small animals. During restoration work on Ellis Island in 1985, archeologists found discarded shells, pottery fragments, arrow heads, fossilized plants, fish, duck, deer and turtle bones, that gave an idea of how the Native Americans ate and settled on and near the island. When the Dutch colonists arrived and acquired the land, they named it Little Oyster Island.