Century of Hope
5/20/2010
How the Angel Island immigration station escaped demolition to tell the stories of those detained on teh island.
Despite warnings of poor conditions on Angel Island, the buildings were never updated. The immigrant processing center closed in August 1940, when the Administration Building burned down. (Fortunately, no one was killed.) Detainees were relocated to a mainland facility. Soon after, in 1943, Congress repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act in consideration of its WWII ally in China.
 
The US government continued to use the station as a detention center, holding prisoners of war there during World War II. Then the site was abandoned until 1963, when California made Angel Island a state park and assumed stewardship.
 
Shortly before the dilapidated buildings were scheduled for demolition in 1970, California State Park ranger Alexander Weiss found the poetry on the walls of the abandoned barracks. His discovery sparked renewed interest in the station and a campaign to preserve and restore it. The barracks opened to the public in 1983 and the site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.
 
Today, tens of thousands of visitors have taken guided tours of the restored barracks and learned about a dark period of American immigration history. During this 100th anniversary year of the Angel Island immigration station’s opening, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation's plans include a Centennial Wall engraved with the names of immigrants who came to build America—this time for all to see. Funds raised will go toward an interactive, multimedia exhibition telling the stories of people from all nations who immigrated through Angel Island and later. The exhibit will be available online in late 2010; an on-site exhibit will open in late 2011.
 
From the August 2010 Family Tree Magazine
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