Did You Know?
- Many women were detained at Ellis Island Learn more
- Children could be sent back to their home countries Learn more
The Registry Room was nicknamed the Great Hall because it is so big. The large rectangular room is 200 feet long and 102 feet wide. Many immigrants had never seen such a large indoor space.
The waiting area in the Great Hall had long metal rails that helped maintain an orderly line as people went through the medical and legal inspections. Wooden benches were added in 1903. The noise in this room could be intense. The sounds of thousands of voices bounced off the vaulted ceilings.
Officials in the Great Hall decided whether each person could enter the country right away or whether that person's case required further review.
From 1903 to 1914, immigrants were checked for trachoma, a contagious eye disease. Doctors used a tool called a buttonhook to lift a person's eyelid to look for the disease. The buttonhook was a well-known and feared part of the immigration process. People with trachoma were often sent back to their home countries.
The Oral History of Lucy Attarian From Turkey
Lucy Attarian was a five-year-old Armenian child from Turkey who came to America in 1921. During the legal inspection on Ellis Island, the immigration officials doubted that Attarian was her parents' child because she had light coloring and they were darker. The officials thought her parents may have been bringing an orphan into the country and so separated them during the legal inspection to test that theory.