Thursday, December 04, 2014
A Visit to Angel Island, San Francisco's Ellis Island
With immigration in the news, it felt like a timely visit when we took the ferry to San Francisco's Angel Island a few weeks ago. Unlike Ellis Island, which is celebrated for its role in processing thousands of Europeans to America, the story of Angel Island is much more dark. As we know, the U.S. did not welcome immigrants from the Far East with open arms -- far from it. Instead, because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, immigrants who found themselves being processed at Angel Island were stuck there for many months -- sometimes years -- in tight quarters and rough prison-like conditions.
We toured the Angel Island Immigration Station and saw, up close, the poetry that many people had carved in the walls of their barracks.
A National Historic Landmark, the station was renovated by the California State Parks and reopened in 2009.
Also on Angel Island are the abandoned buildings of Fort McDowell, an Army base that operated there until the end of World War II. Most buildings that remain have been hollowed out, although a chapel is still intact, and another building has been turned into a museum.
We reached Angel Island via a ferry from Tiburon. Bikes are welcome, and the island is a great place to hike, watch deer (introduced long ago to the island) and other wildlife, and catch a great view of the San Francisco bay.