Nearly two and a half years ago, Superstorm Sandy took a devastating toll on much of the tri-state area, even damaging large portions of iconic Ellis Island itself.
And while full recovery from that historic storm has been a long time in the making, Ellis Island — a landmark that is part National Park, part Immigration Museum — is finally back in operation following a series of expansions, repairs and restorations.
Thanks to Boonton, NJ-based Phelps Construction Group, visitors will once again be able to view Ellis Island, the site where millions of immigrants began their new lives in the U.S., in its entirety.
The construction firm was also contracted to build the new Peopling of America Center, an addition to the Immigration Museum that opened Wednesday, May 27.
“Obviously it’s a big honor, creating a new museum for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation,” Phelps Construction Group President Doug Phelps said. “And adding what we had to overcome after Sandy, this project was really special to us.”
Between 1820 and 1930, the U.S. was the top destination for those looking to emigrate from their home countries; during this time, America welcomed about 60% of the world’s immigrants to its shores. According to the New Jersey Daily Record, the new galleries reflect the history of American immigration before and after Ellis Island’s peak period of use, covering the years from 1550 to 1890.
The first phase of the Peopling of America Center looks at immigration patterns in the centuries before Ellis Island opened in 1892; the gallery’s second phase examines immigration after Ellis Island closed in 1954 to the present day.
Phelps explained that the project presented a number of challenges to construction workers. Because Ellis Island is a major historical monument, workers had to make adjustments and create spaces for galleries without actually altering the building’s “structural fabric.”
Phelps Construction Group has been enlisted to work for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation before in the past, and Phelps said he hopes to work for the group again.
“The Peopling of America Center at Ellis Island is an amazing, transformative undertaking,” Phelps said. “We are proud to be associated with it and with the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation.”