Most immigrants arriving in New York during the first half of the 19th century were docked on the east side of the tip of Manhattan. Starting on August 1st in the year 1855 immigrants were landed at Castle Garden. Castle Garden served as an immigration station until April 18, 1890. After the closing of Castle Garden an old barge office in Manhattan was used to process immigrants. Ellis Island opened with great fanfare on January 1, 1892. After the closing of Castle Garden, immigrants were processed at an old barge office in Manhattan until the opening of the Ellis Island Immigration Center on 1 January 1892.
Castle Clinton began its interesting life as a fort built to defend New York Harbor from the British during the War of 1812. Twelve years after the war it was ceded to New York City by the U.S. Army. The former fort reopened in 1824 as Castle Garden, a public cultural center and theatre. More than 8 million immigrants were processed before it was closed on April 18, 1890. Castle Garden was succeeded by Ellis Island in 1892 when the federal government took over control of the processing of immigrants. This facility was much larger than Castle Garden and also more isolated. Most of Castle Garden immigrant records were destroyed when fire struck the Ellis Island facility on June 15, 1897. The fire was first seen at 12:38 AM by the lookout for the harbor police station. He first noticed a flame about as big as a man’s hand coming out of the window on the second floor. The fire spread rapidly and at 01:05 AM the eaves of the roof were ablaze. At 02:00 AM it was thought by those watching from the Battery that all building would be destroyed. The fire was then at it’s worse and presented a large spectacle as seen from the city. at 02:10 AM all the immigrants, about 200 at the time were brought safely from Ellis Islane d to the Barge Office on the Battery. Luckily there was no loss of life.