The Registry Room, Ellis Island
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After setting down their precious luggage in the Baggage Room downstairs, hopeful, but exhausted potential immigrants climbed the stairway to this beautiful room. The benches at the end are originals and they filled the room where the nervous men, women and children awaited their call to the desks at the front of the room.
After going through extensive health and mental checks, and examinations as to their intent, their eyes would be focused on the three doors at the bottom of the stairs at the far end of this image.
One door led to waiting relatives and the short walk to the ferry waiting to transport them to Battery Park in New York, or the Ferry building in Jersey City.
One door led to Detention - women and children could not come into the country without a male escort. Others might be borderline immigrants who had to undergo more health or mental tests - or wait for a relative to arrive to vouch for them (a wait that could last for days or even weeks).
The third door meant automatic deportation on the next ship back to where they had left from - another 10 day to month-long voyage - often crammed into holds not unlike the slave ships.
Fortunately, those were the minority.
For detainees, life was pretty decent. They had good food, wonderful gardens and grounds to relax in, and eventually, excellent hospitals.
During WW1, this room housed many wounded Americans, beds filling the space. (Oddly, the last time I saw something similar was at the Naval Air Station by New Orleans, where servicemen from all over the country were housed to help after Hurricane Katrina. The gym was completely filled with cots and every spare inch of grass had temporary tents set up.)
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