Immigrants arrive at Castle Garden, Courtesy of NYPLDigital Gallery
As part of our 400 Years of Immigration History campaign on Twitter, today’s tweet is about the opening of Castle Garden in 1855. As most of us know, Ellis Island was the major point of entry for immigrants coming to the East Coast of the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Before Ellis Island was opened in 1892, Castle Garden was the place where immigrants stepped on American soil for the first time.
A July 24, 1855 New York Times article titled “Castle Garden Emigration Depot” commended the new facility. According to the writer, the conditions that an immigrant faced before Castle Garden was established were horrendous. New immigrants were often taken advantage of when they arrived, as they were unfamiliar with the area and often didn’t speak English. They were regularly overcharged for boarding and tickets to other destinations, and their clothes were sometimes too thin for the cold seasons in New York.
What surprised me were the accommodations the new immigrants had at Castle Garden. According to the article, “When the passengers leave the vessel they can procure refreshments which will be there prepared for them. If they wish to remain overnight and not proceed at once on their journey, they will be also accommodated with sleeping places; but if they choose to press forward immediately their extra baggage is weighed, tickets handed them for the entire route, every information afforded, and thus they are rescued from the sharpers and sent to their destination with security and dispatch. If they wish to remain in the City for a few days, their property is stowed away in the baggage room, and they are directed to proper boarding houses over which the Commissioners will keep a watchful eye; so that no extortion, over charge or imposition of any kind will be allowed to take place.” [Click here to read the full article.]
Click here to read more about Castle Garden and how immigrants came to New York City before 1855.