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NEW YORK, Jan. 2, 1892 (The New York Times) — The new buildings on Ellis Island constructed for the use of the Immigration Bureau were yesterday formally occupied by the officials of that department. The employees reported at an early hour, and each was shown to his place by the Superintendent or his chief clerk. Col. Weber was on the island at 8 o'clock, and went on a tour of inspection to see that everything was in readiness for the reception of the first boatload of immigrants.
There were three big steamships in the harbor waiting to land their passengers, and there was much anxiety among the new-comers to be the first landed at the new station. The honor was reserved for a little rosy-cheeked Irish girl. She was Annie Moore, fifteen years of age, lately a resident of County Cork, and yesterday one of the 148 steerage passengers landed from the Guion steamship Nevada. Her name is now distinguished by being the first registered in the book of the new landing bureau.
The steamship that brought Annie Moore arrived late Thursday night. Early yesterday morning the passengers of that vessel were placed on board the immigrant transfer boat John E. Moore. The craft was gayly decorated with bunting and ranged alongside the wharf on Ellis Island amid a clang of bells and din of shrieking whistles.
As soon as the gangplank was run ashore, Annie tripped across it and was hurried into the big building that almost covers the entire island. By a prearranged plan she was escorted to a registry desk which was temporarily occupied by Mr. Charles M. Hendley, the former private secretary of Secretary Windom. He asked as a special favor the privilege of registering the first immigrant, and Col. Weber granted the request.
When the little voyager had been registered Col. Weber presented her with a ten-dollar gold piece and made a short address of congratulation and welcome. It was the first United States coin she had ever seen and the largest sum of money she had ever possessed. She says she will never part with it, but will always keep it as a pleasant memento of the occasion. She was accompanied by her two younger brothers. The trio came to join their parents, who live at 32 Monroe Street, this city.
Besides those of the Nevada, the passengers of the City of Paris and of the steamship Victoria were also lauded at the new station. They numbered 700 in all, and the many conveniences of the mammoth structure for facilitating the work of landing were made manifest by the rapidity with which this number was registered and sent on to their various destinations. It was quite a populous little island about noon, when the steerage passengers from the three big steamships were being disembarked but within a very short time they had all been disposed of. Those destined for local points were placed on board the ferryboat Brinckerhoff and landed at the Barge Office. Those going to other places were taken to the varioius railroad stations by the immigrant transports.
The first ticket sold by the railroad agents in the new building was purchased by Ellen King, on her way from Waterford, Ireland, to a small town in Minnesota.
Col. John J. Toffey and Major Edward J. Anderson, who have succeeded to the contract for the supply of subsistence, signalized the day by entertaining Col. Weber, the Superintendent of Immigration; Major Hibbard, the Superintendent of Construction; Surgeon Toner and staff, and all the employes of the station at a New Year's Day spread. Capt. Charles W. Laws, their chief, had prepared the board for 300 guests, and the throng had a mery time at the tables.
Col. Toffey and Major Anderson had planned to have a pretentious opening and their friends were to have been invited, but the authorities at Washington directed that the opening be made without any ceremony.
All connected with the Immigration Bureau expressed themselves as exceedingly well pleased with the change from the cramped quarters at the Barge Office to the commodious building on its island site. The railroad people were the only ones who were heard to express any dissatisfaction. Their grievance is that the building is so large as to involve much running about on their part in getting their various passengers together. Others said that when the tremendous number of immigrants who had to be handled in this building was considered finding fault with its size was like complaining of a circle for being round.
"We can easily handle 7,000 immigrants in one day here," said Col. Weber. "We could not handle half that number at the Barge Office. At the old place the greatest delay was in the baggage department. All that is now done away with, as the baggage department has the entire first floor and the arrangement is perfect."
The building was erected by the Federal Government at a cost of $500,000. The wharves are so arranged that immigrants from two vessels can be landed at the same time. As soon as disembarked the passengers are shown up a broad stairway on the southern side of the building. Turning to the left they pass through ten aisles, where are stationed as many registry clerks. After being registered, those of the immigrants who have to be detained are placed in a wire-screened inclosure. The more fortunate ones pass on to a similar compartment where those going to the West are separated from those bound for New-England or local points.
There is an information bureau in the building for the benefit of those seeking friends or relatives among the immigrants. There are also telegraph and railroad ticket offices and a money changer's office.
Except the surgeon, none of the officials will reside on the island. The surgeon occupies the quarters formerly used by the gunner when Ellis Island was a naval magazine.
The New York Times published an article on January 1, 1892 detailing the opening of Ellis Island and Annie Moore's arrival. Read the article here.