Exploring Ellis Island

Apologies for the unusually long silence since the last post. Realised it had got out of hand when a friend emailed to check everything was OK. No cause for alarm, folks, just the combination of a busy Thanksgiving, buying and wrapping Christmas presents, and last but not least, taking on the extra challenge of making B a quilt for Christmas. It’s coming along pretty well, actually; have been reading up on quilting blogs for all the different stages involved (sooooooo much preparation), and it’s nearly finished. When it’s done, I’ll upload some photos as have so enjoyed the project. But it has sucked up all the time usually spent on this blog….

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Had a v humbling visit to Ellis Island earlier this week. We had some old friends from London staying, who really wanted to see it and we’ve been waiting for an excuse to go, so we braved the -9 degrees wind chill and took the ferry over. A word of warning – do not attempt this with a pushchair by yourself in winter. The security to get on the ferry is unbelievably tight; prams have to be collapsed and put through the x-ray scanner, as do all hats, scarves and coats. Would have been incredibly flustered if I’d been alone and asked to peel both girls out of all their winter kit plus unpack the (frankly excessive) amount of clutter stored beneath the pram. We got through it, however, and joined the queue for the next ferry. All this takes place inside a large white tent, so at least we kept warm.

Steep ferry plank
Steep ferry plank
Ellis Island's Great Hall
Ellis Island’s Great Hall

Then there was the challenge of boarding the ferry. The winds were high so the waves were too, and the gang plank was at an alarmingly steep angle. Again, I’d have struggled to push it up there and hold T’s hand all by myself. But once you’re on, it’s warm and snug and there are seats around the edge with plenty of room for pushchairs. There’s even a little cafe onboard selling hot drinks.

Decided not to get off at Liberty Island as didn’t want to wear out the girls too soon, but they enjoyed studying her close up, as the ferry circles close to the island. T wanted to know why the statue wore a crown – was she royal? We decided that she probably was, and that her correct title was therefore bound to be ‘Her Royal Highness, the Statue of Liberty’.

Her Royal Highness, the Statue of Liberty
Her Royal Highness, the Statue of Liberty

Ellis Island Museum was great, a really interesting day trip. Very simple and understated, the big rooms grand with their functional tiling. It was fascinating to study the giant black and white photos of immigrants, many with young children. T was v interested to know why so many carried flowery sacks (presumably sheets) rather than suitcases. It’s hard to explain to a three year old, but feel it was a really good exercise. Such a contrast to our own arrival here four months ago.

Humbling photos of immigrants at Ellis Island, their belongings in cloth bundles
Humbling photos of immigrants at Ellis Island, their belongings in cloth bundles

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There’s a sweet life sized statue of Annie Moore, a 17 year old Irish girl who was officially the first immigrant processed through Ellis Island. My two enjoyed hugging and patting her. Apart from that, not much of the exhibits really caught their attention as much of it involves large black and white photos and contemporary quotes rather than any interactive exibits.

Annie Moore - the first immigrant to be processed through Ellis Island
Annie Moore

Apparently an estimated 40% of all Americans have at least one ancestor who passed through Ellis Island.  You can even research your own relations’ passage – confess felt a v small twinge of disappointment as believe I am the first in my family to move here, so no one to research.

Exploring some Americans' reactions to the Ellis Island immigrants
Some contemporary reactions to the Ellis Island immigrants

Visiting this museum really brought home the way we ourselves are following in these people’s hopeful footsteps. A v moving trip and definitely worth doing.

If you’re thinking of taking your own kids to Ellis Island:

  • Plan for the security checks, and declutter your pushchair first
  • Take snacks, we didn’t find anywhere to eat on Ellis Island (though there are plenty of large, clean loos with baby changing tables)
  • Concentrate on the top two floors if you’re pushed for time
  • It’s a good destination in bad weather since it’s all indoors, and a v short walk from the ferry pier

This week’s highs and lows:

High: Enjoying the creative ‘holiday’ window displays all over Manhattan. They’re impressive. Kudos to J. Crew for its ‘texting snowmen’ texting displays, really laughed when spotted their little twig fingers clutching phones. T’s favourite is of a polar bear fishing for a Hermes tie on Wall Street

Low: Realising just how many people are going to need large Christmas tips v shortly. It’s the custom here to give envelopes of cash to everybody who helps you, from teachers and dinner ladies at T’s school, to everyone who works in the apartment building. But on the plus side, it is amazing to live in a building like this; any problems get fixed that very day. Also feel the girls are really safe here, the doormen notice all the comings and goings. They even recently clocked me heading off for my first night out since The Big Move in August, which was celebrated with high fives

Good job, J. Crew
Good job, J. Crew

Good job, J. Crew

 

 

Author: Alex

Hello. Toddling Round New York is my own little blog of our family's experience of moving young kids from London to New York... And of having a baby out here. They are my own baby steps of exploring this incredible city. I lived in five countries in four continents growing up, so you'd think I'd be good at this by now. Here you'll find stories and photographs of our adventures, the highs and the lows of expat parenthood, and some ideas I hope you'll find useful if you're in New York with young kids.

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