Saturday, March 9, 1996

1996 New York City and Ellis Island

In 1996, I decided to take a trip with my daughter out to visit some of our New Jersey relatives.  They are quite the characters and made us feel very welcome, even though I hadn't seen them in many years.   While visiting, they even took us to see a few of the sights near them.

Like many Americans we had relatives that came over from Europe, presumably through Ellis Island.  Therefore, I was excited to go check it out.  Those were the days of 35mm cameras and I was into playing with Tiffin filters, so I took some artsy photos.  Too bad I didn't get a good scan of them!

 Views of the Statue of Liberty on the way to Ellis Island are pretty impressive, especially with New York City in the back ground.  And especially before the attacks of 9-11 that took down the World Trade Center buildings seen here in the background.
Once we reached Ellis Island, we checked out the grounds and museum.  We never could trace what ship our relatives came over on, but think my fraternal great Grandparent's came here from Penske Minsk, Latvia.   The museum here was very interesting. 

The first federal immigrant inspection station opened here in 1892 and was an enormous three-story tall structure built of Georgia pine.  It burned down 5 years later and was rebuilt of limestone and brick and reopened in 1900.
  By the time it closed on November 12, 1954, twelve million immigrants had been processed by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration.  Generally, those immigrants who were approved spent from two to five hours at Ellis Island. Arrivals were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money carried.   About 2 percent were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a  chronic contagious disease, criminal background, or insanity.   The island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965, and has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990.  (Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, damaged Ellis Island so badly that it was closed until July 4th, 2013.)
Continuing on the ferry, we also went to the Statue of Liberty. (I've read that now you can either go to Ellis Island or Liberty Island, but the ferry doesn't go to both)  It was a gift to the United States in 1886 from the people of France.  I remember going here once when I was about 6 years old.  Many years later and a few renovations, it is still very impressive!
Views from the island are impressive, too.
 After touring The Statue of Liberty, we took the ferry back to Jersey City while enjoying the views of New York City again. 

Back on shore, we took a train ride into the city.  From Grand Central Station we hopped into a taxi and went straight to the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  I remember stepping out of the taxi and looking up in awe at these incredibly huge buildings.
When completed in 1972, 1 World Trade Center (the North Tower) became the tallest building in the world for two years, surpassing the Empire State Building after a 40-year reign.  Although most of the space in the World Trade Center complex was off-limits to the public, the South Tower featured an indoor and outdoor public observation area called Top of the World Trade Center Observatories on its 107th and 110th floors. We passed through security checks that were added after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, then were taken to the 107th floor indoor observatory at a height of 1,310 feet.  Then we took two short escalator rides up to an outdoor viewing platform on the 110th floor.

  On a clear day you could see 50 miles in any direction.  Although a little hazy, we had a pretty clear day.  Definitely not a place for those scared of heights!
Good thing I'm not scared of heights!
It amazed me how many sky scrapers there were as far as the eye could see!

Little did we know that 5 years later Islamist terrorists would highjack 2 passenger planes and fly them into the towers.  I remember watching tv and seeing the towers burn and collapse on 9/11/2001.  Even though I grew up as an Air Force brat, I never felt threatened like I did then and still do today!

While we were in the city, we also went to the Empire State Building.  It is an American cultural icon and is designed in Art Deco style.  It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.  What I remember most about here were the lines to get to the observation deck on floor 86-- the sidewalk line, the lobby elevator line, the ticket purchase line, the second elevator line, and the line to get off the elevator and onto the observation deck. 
We also walked to Sak's 5th Avenue for a quick look around,
then to St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church.   Built in 1836-40, it is the oldest Roman Catholic parish in New York State.  As Catholics, we were excited to check it out.
Not far from there is Rockefeller Plaza.   It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.  I don't know why I don't have more pictures of the area, but I do remember shopping a few of the shops there and watching the ice skaters for awhile.
We also got a kick out of the street performers there.  We don't see them in St. Louis.
We had dinner at an Irish pub before heading back to New Jersey.  It was an exciting fun filled day.  I've been back to New York City a couple more times---but not until after 9/11/2001.