7. A Coast Guard training station

The view of the Ellis Island immigration center from the water.
The view of the Ellis Island immigration center from the water.

The passage of the National Origins Act, which required immigrants to obtain visas in American consulates at their country of origin before embarking for America, was a major factor that decreased immigration to the United States. However, with the advent of the Great Depression and the implementation of Country of Origin quota limits, immigration levels on Ellis Island steadily declined in the 1920s and 1930s.

With fewer immigrants to process, the island welcomed a new group to host: the Coast Guard. In 1939, the Coast Guard opened training stations at Ellis Island that served 60,000 enlisted men and 3,000 officers. The Coast Guard used the Baggage and Dormitory Building as their drill room, armory, boatsman storeroom, carpenter’s shop, and machine shop. The group used the New Immigration Building as dormitories where they would rest between their destroyer escorts and submarine chasers, among other tasks. The training station was decommissioned in 1946, but the Coast Guard returned to the Island in 1951 and established a Port Security Unit on the island when the U.S. Public Health Service closed the immigration hospital. The Coast Guard used the island’s recreation buildings and parts of the hospital complex for their offices. The FBI also had field offices in the hospital buildings.