Ellis Island museum reopens after Sandy's floods - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Ellis Island museum reopens after Sandy's floods

Posted: Updated:
Debris and damage on Ellis Island (photo by National Park Service) Debris and damage on Ellis Island (photo by National Park Service)

JENNIFER PELTZ | AP

NEW YORK (AP) — The island that ushered millions of immigrants into the United States and became a monument to its mosaic of ancestries reopened to visitors Monday for the first time since Superstorm Sandy, adding a chapter to the narrative of hard-won recovery on the eve of the storm's anniversary.

The Ellis Island Immigration Museum hasn't fully recovered from the floods that filled its basement; many of its more than 1 million photographs and other artifacts are still in storage, and officials haven't yet repaired computers the public can use to research forebears. But visitors were able to return to much of the graceful main building, including some exhibits, and to absorb the island's singular views of the nearby Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan.

"Awe" was Cathy Scheer's reaction as she stepped off the first visitor ferry Monday morning. The Riverside, Calif., resident and a colleague at a school bus driver-training company had arrived a day early for a business trip in hopes of seeing the statue and Ellis Island.

Some of Scheer's German and Scottish forebears immigrated via Ellis Island, so she was excited at "the chance to walk in my ancestors' shoes," she said.

Sandy's surge swamped Ellis Island, the entry point for about 12 million newcomers from 1892 to 1954 and a public historic site since 1976. David Luchsinger, the National Park Service superintendent for the island and the Statue of Liberty, arrived the day after Sandy to find doors and windows blown out, pilings strewn on the grounds and the basement full of water, which destroyed the electric, heating, air conditioning and phone systems.

Liberty Island was also inundated during Sandy and reopened on July Fourth, only to close again for a time during the recent partial federal government shutdown.

The floodwaters didn't touch the Ellis Island exhibits, which are on the first and higher floors, but they were later moved to storage because they could have deteriorated without climate control.

Rebuilding and storm proofing the electrical and other networks without marring the 1900, Beaux-Arts-style building was a challenge to plan and is still a $21 million, 18-month work in progress. Heat is currently running through the building's original radiators, instead of the modern climate-control system.

Officials are still working on regulating the radiators before bringing back venerable documents, clothes, musical instruments and other objects, Luchsinger said. He hopes to start returning the items to their galleries within about a month and to have the public family-research computers running again by the end of November.

"Yes, we are shy a little bit on exhibits and artifacts, but we're not shy on character, at all," he said while standing before a glass-enclosed array of steamer trunks and suitcases in the former baggage room where immigrants left belongings.

The climate-control and other systems are being elevated and waterproofed as much as possible without compromising the building's historic and architectural qualities, Luchsinger said. He estimates the building will be able to recover from any future major floods in a month or less.

"This is an icon," he said, speaking of the island and its role in the nation's diversity. "It's what this country is all about."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • New Jersey NewsNew Jersey NewsMore>>

  • Tornado kills N.J. couple in Va. campground

    Tornado kills N.J. couple in Va. campground

    Thursday, July 24 2014 5:06 PM EDT2014-07-24 21:06:16 GMT
    Virginia State Police photoVirginia State Police photo
    A New Jersey couple was killed after a tornado caused a tree to fall on their tent at a popular campground, according to Virginia State Police. Lord Balatbat and Lolabeth Ortega, of Jersey City, were killed Thursday morning as a fierce storm ripped through the campground, police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
    A New Jersey couple was killed after a tornado caused a tree to fall on their tent at a popular campground, according to Virginia State Police. Lord Balatbat and Lolabeth Ortega, of Jersey City, were killed Thursday morning as a fierce storm ripped through the campground, police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
  • Proposed Quick Chek becoming hot topic for West Orange neighborhood

    Proposed Quick Chek becoming hot topic for West Orange neighborhood

    Thursday, July 24 2014 1:06 PM EDT2014-07-24 17:06:22 GMT
    New Jersey NewsNew Jersey News
    In recent weeks, the St. Cloud neighborhood in West Orange has seen a groundswell of opposition to a proposal by Quick Chek to replace the vacant restaurant at 555 Northfield Ave. 
    In recent weeks, the St. Cloud neighborhood in West Orange has seen a groundswell of opposition to a proposal by Quick Chek to replace the vacant restaurant at 555 Northfield Ave. 
  • State ends hunt for snake in Lake Hopatcong

    State ends hunt for snake in Lake Hopatcong

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:58 PM EDT2014-07-24 16:58:56 GMT
    Reports of a 16-foot-long exotic snake slithering around New Jersey's largest lake are apparently a suburban legend or the snake just isn't hungry.
    A 16-foot-long exotic snake reportedly slithering around New Jersey's largest lake is apparently a suburban legend. Or the snake just isn't hungry. The state has stopped looking for the reptile after scientists failed to find any evidence of it in Lake Hopatcong and traps baited with chicken were left untouched. Three unconfirmed sightings this month of a snake, perhaps an anaconda as long as 16 feet, raised concerns among visitors and swimmers.
Powered by WorldNow

25 FOX Drive
Dedham, MA 02026

Phone (781) 467-2525

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices