On May 26th, 1998, the US Supreme Court ruled that most of Ellis Island belonged to New Jersey, not New York. The landmark in New York Harbor had been the subject of dispute for decades and the justices went back to 1834 for the agreement that determined sovereignty.

The island started out as a three acre army fort. The original land belongs to New York, but the compact gave all the surrounding water and “submerged land” to New Jersey. Therefore, the 24 acres of landfill that were added to the island over the decades come under New Jersey’s jurisdiction. According to the New York Times, the decision is mainly one of bragging rights: the federal government owns the title to Ellis Island and the dispute between the states mainly centers on a small amount of sales tax.

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 mailing address for the monument is Jersey City, for what it’s worth.

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.

Travel back in time to a colorized Atlantic City circa 1919

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