Lady Liberty & Ellis Island

Even though Woody is in the shop for a few weeks, we’re still exploring! We are at MomMom and Papa’s New Jersey house for a few weeks having a great time.

Our first field trip was an amazing one – Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty! My dad made sure to get tickets a couple of months ago because this was a must-see for my kiddos. We parked at Liberty State Park and I was amazed at how quiet it was. (The traffic getting there was of course thick as glue.)

It was a gorgeous fall day. We were so grateful the sun was shining!

Look at this really special art work… “The Empty Sky Memorial”:

It was amazing to walk through the old train station and think of all the masses that came through here chasing their American dream. Many of their destinations were places around America that we have now seen!

Of all the cities we’ve visited, this skyline is still the most beautiful:

To prep ourselves for the field trip we read the book If Your Name was Changed on Ellis Island which gave us a lot of info and a head start on our junior ranger lessons.

(I had also just read A Fall of Marigolds as a leisure book and one main character was a nurse on Ellis Island during its peak immigration years. When I picked that book a few weeks ago I didn’t even realize that was the storyline.)

We did a quick ranger-led tour which took us to the Registry Room / Great Hall where the immigrants were examined and inspected.

We don’t suffer from lack of imaginations so it wasn’t hard for us to picture what it must have been like to be immigrants….especially because on our field trip we heard more than a handful of other languages around us! But can you even imagine what it must have been like?! Today, none of us would survive the horrific journey over the seas much less anything that followed in trying to start a life here. To stand in such a special place of our history was so amazing!

You can really almost feel the strong emotions of the past – hope, fear, excitement. These immigrants were amazing!

And to think… our very own blood relatives were standing in these same spots we were. I mean the exact same floor, even! Look at this original flooring:

(Btw – Only 3rd class and steerage passengers came through Ellis Island. For 1st and 2nd class, inspectors and doctors would enter the ship and examine them there.).

Seeing the specifics of the process was really incredible. Look at this picture of them “caged” in rows as they waited their turn to find out if they would be admitted into our country or rejected and sent back.

And then… the “stairs of separation”…. left to NJ, right to NY, middle to the hospital for detention or exclusion. Omgoodness – the excitement or the desperation that was felt – standing exactly where I was!

We then toured the hearing room where detainees could plead their case… which now is an exhibit that explains in more detail the medical examinations and inspection processes.

To enter into the country, you had to be literate so the workers would give them cards to read in their language:

Not sure if you can tell …but they are all scriptures from the Bible!

We really enjoyed the Journeys: New Eras 1945 – Present section especially the citizenship test and the interactive map that showed demographics around America. We could have spent an entire day at Ellis Island. There were multiple rooms we didn’t get to see or went through very quickly….but Lady Liberty was calling us! Bye Ellis Island…

Hello Liberty Island. There she is!

What a beauty 🙂

We had tickets so we could walk up the pedestal:

Those steps were no joke!

RR enjoyed the engineering facts and sights:

Seeing her from “under” was funny:

We really enjoyed seeing her up close:

Gorgeous!

Here’s the view from her pedestal:

Have you ever wondered how Lady Liberty wears her hair?

You’re welcome 🙂 We also liked learning her right foot is up in the back:

Here’s another fun angle:

It’s hard to believe it’s copper, isn’t it !? What an amazing statue! It really looks like she is draped in fabric and not metal.

The new museum on Liberty Island is great – there’s a short video with beautiful photography/ videography and then there are exhibits about sculptor Bartholdi’s creating of the statue in France, his inspiration in the Colossus of Rhodes…and the fundraising it took to get her in place!

Some of my fave facts… when she was erected in 1886 she was the tallest structure in NYC and the tallest statue in the world. I love all that she symbolizes and especially what she symbolized at the time she was given…our Civil War was over, slavery was abolished, and the nation was looking toward its 2nd century. Her full title is “Liberty Enlightening the World”.

Here’s another Fun Fact and connection!!! The park ranger told us that the man who designed the pedestal is none other than Richard Morris Hunt, architect of The Biltmore! He was chosen because he was the first American classically trained in Paris… so it was another celebration of the French/American friendship.

The ranger loved our kids’ work and saw that they were bright kiddos, great readers, and amazing writers! He was touched by their words. I thought…wow what if they had spent more than 2 minutes on this work! 🙂 I appreciated his encouragement so much since we don’t get a lot of feedback in homeschooling haha.

One assignment in their books was to pretend you were an immigrant and to write back to your family in the home country and describe your feelings. I loved what each of them wrote. Here is E’s:

Dear family, This is the best feeling I’ve ever had! The statue is bright green and she makes you want to do something good for the country. I’m so thankful my trip is done and I am home! – E

It was such a great day! We learned so much and I am still processing quite a lot as I think on the immigration process past present and future.

The day we visited also happened to be the anniversary of Emma Lazarus’s death. She of course wrote the famous…

“The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I loved this field trip! Thanks MM & Pa!