Liberty Enlightening the World
Even before it took its place at America's gateway, the Statue of Liberty overwhelmed those who saw it. Parisians, watching the statue's construction in their city in the 1880s, proclaimed it the "eighth wonder of the world." Set atop its pedestal in 1886, it was the tallest structure in New York Cityand the tallest statue in the world.
In 1865 a group of French intellectuals led by Edouard de Laboulaye, protesting political repression in their own country, decided to honor the ideals of freedom and liberty with a symbolic gift to the United States. The time was right: the Civil War was over, slavery was abolished, and the nation looked toward its centennial.
Nationalism, prosperity, and new technology forged an era of monument building. Auguste Bartholdi, Laboulaye's young sculptor friend, seized the chance to create a modern-day Colossus. Twenty-one years later and an ocean away, "Liberty Enlightening the World" stood complete in New York Harbor. After the 1886 dedication, the president of France proclaimed that Liberty would "magnify France beyond the seas."
But Liberty's image was already being transformed by its adopted home. Amid massive immigration in the late 1800s, the notion of Liberty as the "Mother of Exiles" touched the minds and hearts of the public despite a growing number of restrictive immigration laws. In 1883, the young writer Emma Lazarus wrote a poem for a fundraiser for the statue's pedestal. She titled it "The New Colossus" after the Colossus of Rhodes, the ancient statue that inspired Bartholdi. Her work gained lasting fame in 1903 when it was inscribed on a bronze plaque and affixed to the pedestal.
As immigration plummeted during World War I, Liberty's role evolved. Staring out from glossy posters, telling citizens to buy war bonds or enlist in the military, Liberty was the United States personified. Later years have seen the statue's image used to lead political movements, satirize national policy, sell lemons, illuminate living rooms, and attract tourists from around the world.
As you explore Liberty Island and the statue, consider Bartholdi's philosophy: "Colossal statuary does not consist simply in making an enormous statue. It ought to produce an emotion in the breast of the spectator, not because of its volume, but because its size is in keeping with the idea that it interprets, and with the place which it ought to occupy." The shaping and re-shaping of its symbolism, over time and throughout the world, make experiencing the original statue in its original setting all the more importantand wondrous.
1811 Star-shaped Fort Wood built on Bedloe's (Liberty) Island.
1865 Laboulaye, Bartholdi, and others conceive idea of a monument to liberty.
1871 Bartholdi tours US, chooses site in New York Harbor.
1874 Fundraising for statue begins in France.
1876 Liberty's arm and torch displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
1879 Gustave Eiffel designs statue's internal framework.
1881–84 Statue assembled in Paris. Foundation work begins on Bedloe's Island.
1884 Noted architect Richard Morris Hunt designs pedestal.
1885 Statue dismantled, shipped to New York. Joseph Pulitzer begins fundraising for pedestal in New York World.
1886 Statue reassembled on Bedloe's Island. Dedicated Oct. 28.
1892 Ellis Island immigration station opens.
1916 Torch closed.
1924 Statue declared a national monument.
1933 National Park Service takes over administration of statue from War Department.
1956 Bedloe's Island renamed Liberty Island.
1986 Restoration completed for statue's centennial celebration.
2001 Closed after September 11 attacks, island reopens in December. Pedestal reopens in 2004; Crown in 2009.
2019 Statue of Liberty Museum opens.
Plan Your Visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
You can reach the sites only by a National Park Service authorized ferry operator. www.nps.gov/stli/planyourvisit
Your roundtrip ferry ticket includes access to the grounds and museums on Liberty and Ellis islands. For Pedestal and Crown access, you must make specific reservations with the authorized ferry operator. Pedestal and Crown tickets are limited.
Ferries depart from The Battery in Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey. To visit both islands in one day, plan to take an early ferry.
Closed Thanksgiving Day and December 25.
Security and Safety
Due to strict security screening, please do not bring large bags, backpacks, suitcases, or other large items into park. • All visitors and their belongings are subject to search before boarding vessels. • All weapons and dual-use and dangerous items, including pocket knives, are strictly prohibited. • No animals are allowed except service dogs. Private boats are not allowed to dock at either island. • No skating or skateboarding.
We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information, go to the Information Center, ask a park ranger, call, or check our website.
Liberty Island Grounds
Liberty Island has an Information Center, museum, cafe, bookstore, and gift shop. Audio tours are available in multiple languages, American Sign Language, and audio description. Check at the Information Center for ranger tours and programs.
Statue of Liberty Museum
Explore the statue's history, construction, and changing meanings through a 10-minute immersive film and exhibits.
A Pedestal ticket allows you to access the observation level at the top of the pedestal to view the statue's interior.
Crown access is limited and by reservation only. For ticket information, see "Plan Your Visit" above.
Pedestal and Crown Ticket holder Information
A second security screening, similar to airport security procedures, is required for all Pedestal and Crown ticket holders. • Many items allowed on the island may be prohibited inside the pedestal and statue. • Lockers (fee) are provided for prohibited items.
For updated park and security policies, please contact park staff; see "Plan Your Visit" above, if you have questions or need assistance while in the park, please contact a ranger or US Park Police officer.
The Statue of Liberty is a World Heritage Site.
Millions of Americans can claim ancestors who came through Ellis Island. Religious persecution, political strife, unemployment, family connections, the lure of adventure: these were the circumstances of the greatest migration in modern history, when shipload after shipload of people, mostly Europeans, came to the United States. Beginning in 1892, the majority took their first steps toward becoming Americans at Ellis Island. Today, Ellis Island is a memorial to all who have made this nation their adopted home.
In the decade after the American Revolution, about 5,000 people immigrated to the United States every year. By the early 1900s, many arrived at Ellis Island each day, with a record 11,747 on April 17, 1907. All told, some 12 million came through Ellis Island. The immigration station at Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892. Five years later, the wooden structure burned, along with many immigration records. On December 17, 1900, a new, fireproof French Renaissance-style building welcomed the arrivals. Ferries and barges brought steerage passengers from steamships. As immigrants entered the building and climbed the stairs, doctors watched for a limp, labored breathing, or other suspected troubles.
In the Registry Room (Great Hall), inspectors asked immigrants their name, hometown, occupation, destination, and amount of money they carriedup to 31 questions in all. Those allowed to pass continued downstairs exchanged money, bought provisions, and perhaps rail tickets. A third or so stayed in New York City; others headed elsewhere.
While 20 percent were held back for further medical or legal examination, only about two percent were denied entry.
After the inspection process was transferred to US consulates in the 1920s, only a small number of detained immigrants passed through Ellis Island. In 1954, it closed completely. Buildings deteriorated until restoration began in the 1980s. Today at Ellis Island, you can retrace the steps of people pursuing new lives in a new land.
1774 Samuel Ellis purchases the island.
1808 Federal government acquires the island for harbor defense. Fort Gibson completed 1811.
1855–90 Individual states process immigration. Castle Garden (now Castle Clinton National Monument) is the immigration station for New York.
1886 Statue of Liberty dedicated.
1890–91 Immigration is now under federal control. The New York station is at the Barge Office in Battery Park.
1892 New station opens at Ellis Island; destroyed by fire in 1897.
1900 Present Main Building opens, built of brick trimmed with limestone and granite.
1901–10 8.8 million immigrants arrive in the United States; 6 million are processed at Ellis.
1914–18 World War I curbs immigration. Enemy aliens are detained at Ellis.
1920s Federal laws set immigration quotas based on national origin. In 1924 US consulates take over inspection and processing. Ellis has a deportation center, US Public Health Service hospital, and later a Coast Guard facility.
1939–45 In the World War II era, Italians, Germans, and Japanese are interned at Ellis, regardless of citizenship.
1954 The Ellis Island immigration station is closed permanently.
1965 National origin quotas are abolished. Ellis Island becomes part of Statue of Liberty National Monument.
1990 The restored Main Building opens as an immigration museum.
Your Visit to Ellis Island
The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, located in the Main Building, has exhibits, theaters, gift shop, cafe, and visitor facilities. Check at the Information Desk for guided tours, programs, and the documentary film schedule.
The museum has three floors of exhibits documenting immigrants' experiences at Ellis Island and the general history of immigration to the United States. Audio tours offer a range of ways to explore the Ellis Island exhibits and are available in multiple languages, American Sign Language, and audio description.
The rest of Ellis Island's buildingsthe 1930s Ferry Building, hospital, morgue, contagious disease wards, offices, housing, and maintenance facilitiescan be viewed only on a guided tour. We recommend you schedule tours in advance. For information about the Hard Hat Tour and park partner Save Ellis Island, visit www.saveellisisland.org.
Fort Gibson, on Ellis Island 1811–60s, was near today's Wall of Honor. Uncovered during work on the Wall, its foundation is left visible. For more about Ellis Island's military history, visit the
"Ellis Island Chronicles" exhibit on the museum's third floor.
The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation built the American Immigrant Wall of Honor to commemorate all immigrants to the United States. Through donations, people can have a name added to the Wall. Note: This is not a comprehensive list of the 12 million immigrants who passed through Ellis Island. The Wall is in back of the Main Building.
The Bob Hope Memorial Library has historical research materials on Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Hope immigrated through Ellis Island in 1908.
A restored Dormitory Room shows accommodations for detainees, circa 1908.
The Changing Exhibitions Gallery has temporary exhibits related to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Restoring a Landmark describes the 1980s restoration led by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and the National Park Service.
Silent Voices explores the aftermath of the 1954 closing and abandonment of the immigration station.
Treasures From Home displays over 2,000 possessions immigrants brought from their homelands, most donated by immigrants or their families.
Ellis Island Chronicles traces the history and expansion of the island from when the federal government took over in 1808 (3.3 acres) to today's 27.5 acres.
Through America's Gate follows the immigration process: initial questioning in the Registry Room, medical inspections, and temporary detention for some. Detained immigrants could plead their case to the Board of Special Inquiry in the Hearing Room; most were allowed through.
In the Registry Room (Great Hall), immigrants underwent medical and legal examinations. After inspection, they walked down the "Stairs of Separation." Most boarded New York- or New Jersey-bound ferries. Some awaited further examinations, which could lead to detention or exclusion. At the bottom of the stairs, many immigrants met family members or friends at the "Kissing Post." Be sure to look up at the magnificent Guastavino tiled ceiling, installed by 1918.
Peak Immigration Years explores the massive immigration wave of 1880–1924, why people left their homelands, and how they adapted to new lives in the United States. The exhibit also documents how changing attitudes toward immigration led to new laws and processing procedures.
Journeys: New Eras of Immigration, 1945–Present continues the immigration story beyond the Ellis Island years to the present day.
Citizenship Gallery describes the changing definition, requirements, and meanings of US citizenship.
American Family Immigration History Center, operated by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, maintains a database of immigrant ships' manifests from the Port of New York in the years 1820–1957. Search here (fee) or libertyellisfoundation.org.
You enter the Baggage Room through the same doors as the immigrants. They would have left their belongings here before continuing the examination process. Today, there is an Information Desk, audio tour pickup, bookstore, and exhibit about the room's original use.
Journeys: The Peopling of America 1550–1890 begins in the former railroad ticket office behind the Baggage Room. It tells the story of immigration to the United States before the US government opened Ellis Island.
Source: NPS Brochure (2020)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
A Study Report on Ellis Island (June 1964)
A Master Plan for Ellis Island, New York (June 1968)
A Report on Ellis Island as an Immigrant Depot, 1890-1954 (Thomas M. Pitkin, June 1966)
Archeological Monitoring Life and Safety Upgrades, Statue of Liberty National Monument, Liberty Island, New Yor City, New York (Joshua Butchko, James S. Lee, Patrick Harshbarger and Richard W. Hunter, January 2013, rev. August 2013)
Archeology of a Prehistoric Shell Midden, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York Occasional Publications in Field Archeology No. 1 (William A. Griswold, Tonya Baroody Largy, Lucinda McWeeney and David Perry, 2002)
Celebrating the Immigrant: An Administrative History of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, 1952 - 1982 (HTML edition) Cultural Resource Management Study No. 10 (Barbara Blumberg, 1985)
Cultural Landscape Report: Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, National Park Service, Site History, Existing Conditions, and Analysis Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation (J. Tracy Stakely, May 2003)
Cultural Landscapes Inventory, Liberty Island, Statue of Liberty NM (1996, rev. 2004)
Development of the Geomorphological Map for Governors Island, Ellis Island, and Liberty Island, Upper New York Bay: Principal Characteristics and Components NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/GRD/NRR—2016/1346 (Norbert P. Psuty, William Hudacek, William Schmelz and Andrea Spahn, December 2016)
Ellis Island: Its Legal Status (Henry H. Pike, February 11, 1963)
Ellis Island & People of America, Final Concept Design (ESI Design, August 2004)
Ellis Island Seawall: Historic Structure Report: Ellis Island, State of Liberty National Monument (Naomi Kroll, July 2003)
Essays on Immigration Research: A guide for interpreters at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (Institue for Research in History, 1980)
Evaluation of Impact of Column Rehabilitation on Cultural Resources, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York (Richard Shallenberger and Nan A. Rothschild, May 1981)
Examination of Parts from the Statue of Liberty by Winterthur Museum's Energy Dispersion X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzer (XRF) (Victor F. Hanson, October 8, 1980)
Existing Condition Survey: Main Building, Volume 1, Appendix A, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Beyer Blinder Belle/Anderson Notter Finegold, 1988)
Existing Condition Survey: Units 2, 3, and 4, Volume 4, Appendix A, Part One, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York-New Jersey (Beyer Blinder Belle and Anderson Notter Finegold, September 1988)
Existing Condition Survey: Units 2, 3, and 4, Volume 4, Appendix A, Part Two, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York-New Jersey (Beyer Blinder Belle and Anderson Notter Finegold, September 1988)
Existing Condition Survey: Unit One Buildings, Volume 2, Appendix D, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Beyer Blinder Belle/Anderson Notter Finegold, 1988)
Historic Resource Study (Historical Component): Volume I, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island National Monument, New York (Harlan D. Unrau, September 1984)
Historic Resource Study (Historical Component): Volume II, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island National Monument, New York (Harlan D. Unrau, September 1984)
Historic Resource Study (Historical Component): Volume III, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island National Monument, New York (Harlan D. Unrau, September 1984)
Historic Structure Report: Ellis Island Seawall, Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty National Monument (Naomi Kroll, July 2003)
Historic Structure Report: Liberty Enlightening the World: The Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York (John G. Waite, Associates, Mt. Ida Press, Ltd. and Plus Group Consulting Engineering, May 2011)
Historic Structure Report/Architectural Data: Fort Wood, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York (Philip S. Romigh, October 1973)
Historic Structure Report: Powerhouse, Volume 3, Appendix A, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Beyer Blinder Belle and Anderson Notter Finegold, 1988)
Historic Structure Report: Powerhouse, Volume 3, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Beyer Blinder Belle and Anderson Notter Finegold, 1988)
Historic Structures Report: Main Building, Ellis Island (Mechanical/Electrical Rehabilitation), Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York (Building Conservation Technology/The Ehrenkrantz Group, January 1980)
Historic Structure Report: Units 2, 3, and 4, Volume 4, Part One, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Beyer Blinder Belle/Anderson Notter Finegold, 1988)
Historic Structure Report: Units 2, 3, and 4, Volume 4, Part Two, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Beyer Blinder Belle/Anderson Notter Finegold, 1988)
Historic Structure Report: Units 2, 3, and 4, Volume 4, Part Three, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Beyer Blinder Belle/Anderson Notter Finegold, 1988)
Historic Structure Report: Unit One Buildings, Volume 2, Part One, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Beyer Blinder Belle/Anderson Notter Finegold, 1988)
Historic Structure Report: Unit One Buildings, Volume 2, Part Two, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Beyer Blinder Belle/Anderson Notter Finegold, 1988)
Historic Structures Report: Ellis Island / U.S. Immigration Station, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York (Building Conservation Technology/The Ehrenkrantz Group, January 1980)
History of Bedloe's Island (Benjamin Levine, May 1952)
Interpretive Concepts for Ellis Island (January 1983)
Interpretive Prospectus, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Louis Morris, March 1961)
Inventory of Historic Furnishings at Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument (Judith Brundin, Patra Cogan, Jillana Hellman, Donald Herbst and Diane Zorich, October 1982)
Junior Ranger Program, Ellis Island (Date Unknown)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
Statue of Liberty National Monument (Ellis Island) (Ricardo Torres-Reyes, April 25, 1975)
On Emma Lazarus: Notes on Her Life and Work (Melvin J. Lasky, Spring 1942)
Preliminary Historical Research Report on Ellis Island (Thomas M. Pitkin, September 1965)
Relighting the Statue of Liberty (Crouse-Hinds Company, April 1976)
Renovation of Statue Lighting, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York and New Jersey (A.V. Colabella, March 1975)
Rethinking the Statue of Liberty: Old Meanings, New Contexts (David Glassberg, December 2003)
Short History of the Statue of Liberty Administrative History Draft (Walter Hugins, 1956)
State of Liberty National Monument, Bedloe's Island, New York: Historic Handbook No. 11 (HTML edition) (Benjamin Levine and Isabelle F. Story, 1954)
Statue of Liberty National Monument: Its Origin, Development, and Administration (Walter Hugins, 1958)
The Black Statue of Liberty Rumor: An Inquiry into the History and Meaning of Bartholdi's Liberté éclairant le Monde (Rebecca M. Joseph, September 2000)
The Changing Face of the Statue of Liberty: A Historic Resource Study for the National Park Service (John Bodnar, Laura Burt, Jennifer Stinson and Barbara Truesdell, December 2005)
Summary Structural History of Fort Wood (Thomas M. Pitkin, August 1956)
The Ferryboat Ellis Island: Transport of Hope, Status of Liberty National Monument (Edwin C. Bearss, April 30, 1969)
The Ground Beneath Her Feet: The Archeology of Liberty Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York, New York Occasional Publications in Field Archeology No. 3 (William A. Griswold, Tonya Baroody Largy, Lucinda McWeeney, David Perry, Dorothy Richter and Sarah Whitcher, 2003)
The Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Restoration (F. Ross Holland, Jr., ©Cabrillo Historical Association, 1984)
The Statue of Liberty: its conception, its construction, its inauguration; being a complete history to the date of the inauguration, October 28, 1886, and containing the official programme of the ceremonies on that occasion (John J. Garnett, ed., 1886)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 28-May-2022