This day in history: Supreme Court says Ellis Island mostly in NJ
It’s mainly just for bragging rights, but on May 26, 1998, the US Supreme Court ruled that most of Ellis Island is actually in New Jersey. Ownership of the landmark island in New York Harbor had been in dispute for decades before the Supreme Court decided the matter. The original three acres of what was then an army fort belonged to New York, but in an 1834 agreement, all the surrounding waters and “submerged” land belonged to New Jersey. During the ensuing years, 24 acres of landfill had been brought in to expand the island, and that land, which now makes up over 90% of the island, was ruled to belong to New Jersey.
Since the island was built up over time, the decision means that some of the buildings belong to New York and some belong to both New York and New Jersey. The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration is one such building. The erratic boundary line put most of the museum under New York’s jurisdiction, but the laundry and kitchen are New Jersey’s.
It is estimated that 12 million immigrants passed through the Ellis Island processing station from 1892 to 1954 when it closed. It had also served as a detention center for aliens and deportees. The site became part of the National Park System by Presidential Proclamation in 1965, and was reopened to the public in 1990 as the country's primary museum devoted entirely to immigration. It is now part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.