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Immigration Archives - Castle Garden, Immigrant Landing Station

Castle Garden, situated at the foot of the Battery park and on the extreme southern point of Manhattan Island, is now used as the immigrant depot, where those who come from the Old to find homes in the New. World first find a resting-place, and receive their initial and usually erroneous impression of their new home.

Castle Garden is an historic spot. It was originally a fort, and afterward was converted into a summer garden, whence it derives the name which it still very inappropriately bears. In the absence of a more suitable place, it was used in former times for civic and military displays, and receptions.

In 1824, when the Marquis of Lafayette revisited this country, a grand ball was given in his honor at castle Garden ; and in 1882 President Jackson, and in 1848 President John Tyler, were also publicly received in the Garden. Subsequently it became a concert hall, and as such is famous as the place where Jenny Lind made her first appearance in America, when her European reputation and P. T. Barnum's management secured for her an audience of such brilliance as has rarely, if ever, been seen in this country.

As the city grew up town the place became useless as a resort, and in 1855 the immigrant depot was established within its walls. The European steamers that bring immigrants to this country land them at Castle Garden where they receive food and shelter until such time BR they shall start for the interior or the far West, whither most of them are bound.

At one time the Garden was infested with immigrant runners, who preyed upon the strangers, often unable to speak a word of English ; but this has been suppressed of late years, and the inmigrant is protected, sheltered, fed, and transported with his worldly goods to the depot whence he takes his departure from the city.

At times from 500 to 1,000 immigrants are sheltered at Castle Garden, and the sight is well worth seeing. They rarely, however, remain there over 24 hours. The immigrants are transferred to this landing depot, where, after an examination of their luggage, they are received by officers of the Commission, who enter in registers kept for the purposez11 necessary particulars for their future identification.

The names of such as have money, letters, or friends awaiting them, are called out, and they are put into immediate possession of their property, or committed to their friends, whose credentials have first been properly scrutinized. Such as desire can find clerks at hand to write letters for them in any European language, and a telegraph operator within the depot to forward die-patches.

Here, also, the main trunk lines of railway have offices, at which the immigrant can buy tickets and have his luggage weighed and checked ; brokers are admitted (under restrictions which make fraud impossible) to exchange the foreign coin or paper of immigrants ; a restaurant supplies them with plain food at moderate prices ; a physician is in attendance for the sick ; a temporary hospital is ready to receive them until they can be conveyed to Ward's Island ; and those in search of employment are furnished it at the labor bureau connected with the establishment.

Such as desire to start at once for their destination are sent to the railway or steamboat; while.an3t who may choose to remain in the city are referred to boarding-house keepers admitted to the- depot, whose charges are regulated under special license, and whose houses are kept under constant and rigid supervision by the Commissioners.

These services are rendered without any fee or charge whatever to the immigrant. The present building at Castle Garden was erected at a coat of $80,000 after the partial destruction by fire of the original structure in 1876. A description of the other buildings of the immigrant department will be found under the WARD'S ISLAND. (See also COMMISSIONERS OF EMIGRATION, and IMMIGRANTS.

Commissioners of Emigration

There are 9 Commissioners, 6 of whom are appointed by the Governor, and the other 8 are the Mayor of the city, the President of the Irish Emigrant Society and the German Society ex Vick, who ' have entire control of the immigrants arriving at this port. Formerly a tax of $1.50 per capita was collected by the Commissioners from the steamship companies; but by a recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States this tax was declared illegal, and the entire support of the Bureau now devolves upon the State. The cost of its maintenance is about $150,000 per annum. (See WARD'S ISLAND, CASTLE GARDEN, and IMMIGRANTS.)


Prior to 1855 vessels, arriving at this port were allowed to land immigrants at any pier, but by a State law enacted at that time masters of vessels are compelled without exception to land them at Castle Garden.

The greatest number of immigrants landed at this port in one year was in 1882, when the total was 476,086 ; prior to that, in 1854, the year preceding the establishment of the Castle Garden depot, it reached 819,000. The smallest number, 54,000, arrived in 1877.

Ward's Island

Ward's Island, a nearly circular island in the East River, near its junction with the Harlem River, forms the northern boundary of Hell Gate, and is divided from Randall's Island to the north by Little Bell Gate. It contains about 200 acres, is well located above high-water mark, and in parts is finely wooded.

It is owned by the city, the Commissioners of Emigration, and. by private individuals. It is ap rtionedhetween the Commissioners a Pu lie Charities and Correction and the Commissioners of Emigration. Under the care of the former are the insane asylum for males and the homeopathic hospital.

Under the charge of the latter are the State Emigrant Hospital, a lunatic asylum, houses of refuge, and a nursery home for children. There is also on the island a home for invalid soldiers of the late war who served in the regiments raised in this city. The by convict labor from Blackwell's is constantly being graded and imp and a sea-wall similar to that around As last mentioned is in process of construction.

The buildings are mainly plain, substantial structures of brick, but those recently erected by the Commissioner; Of acid Correction are noticeably° large and handsome. The lunatic asylum especially is a splendid structure, of flite'brick with gray-stone trimmings, with a number of wings all highly ornamental. It usually contains about 1,100 patients.

Standing back from the shore, these buildings are almost hidden from View in fine old trees, and the scene is a more than ordinarily attractive one. In the institutions under the charge of the Commissioners of Emigration sick and destitute aliens arriving in this country are cared for. (See Commissioners OF Immigration )

Permission to visit the island may be obtained from the Commissioners of Public Charities and Correction at their office at 3rd. and 11th st. Thence by boat from foot of E. 26th st. The pass must be especially endorsed to that effect, to gain admission to the lunitic asylum. A fair view of the island may be obtained from the Harlem boats, starting from near Peck slip about hourly. Fare, 10 cents.

NEW YORK STATE EMIGRANT HOSPITAL AND REFUGE Ward's Island.—Founded 1847. Ferry foot of 110th st., E. R. In charge of the Commissioners of Emigration. Receives emigrants who have resided in this country less than one year. The expenses of maintaining this State institution on the island are met partially by appropriations made by the State and by a capitation tax of fifty cents, levied by act of Congress of August 8, 1882. Capacity, 1,200 beds The service includes medical, surgical, obstetrical, and insane departments.

Appletons' Dictionary of New York and Vicinity (with maps), Fifth Edition, New York: D Appleton & Co., 1883

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