History: Reopening The Gate of America

Once the point of entry for millions of immigrants, then a ghostly ruin, Ellis Island begins a new life

In 1906 H.G. Wells visited the great immigration center at Ellis Island, about a mile off the lower tip of Manhattan. The distinguished British writer and advance man for the future wanted to see for himself how arrivals from the Old World were ushered into the new one. He found the process strangely unceremonious. "On they go, from this pen to that," he wrote, "pen by pen, towards a desk at a little metal wicket -- the gate of America."

If Ellis Island was a paradox, a place where dreams bumped up against bureaucracy, it was no less a place where...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!