A Brief Glimpse at the History of Angel Island

Angel Island California US USA state national park water feature fire ferry

Let’s take a brief glimpse at the history behind Angel Island. Located in the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island is currently a California State Park, an honored member of the California Park system. There are many stories behind Angel Island because it has played a┬álong and diverse role in California’s and America’s history. Angel Island didn’t start off quite as grand though.

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One of the most important and memorable roles Angel Island held in history was that of an immigration station from approximately 1910-1940. Much like Ellis Island welcomed immigrants on the East Coast, Angel Island played a similar role on the West Coast.

However, the reception on the West Coast was not quite as welcoming as on the East Coast. Immigrants from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South America, Mexico, Russia and Asia were the key visitors to Angel Island. Upon a ship’s arrival to San Francisco, it was typically only European immigrants or sometimes those with first-class tickets who were allowed to disembark the ship in San Francisco. The remaining immigrants were brought over to Angel Island where they were processed there.

While one of the reported concerns about these immigrants related to health worries, the overwhelming issue seemed to lie in the fact that Asian immigrants (Chinese immigrants in particular) were being targeted for prospective deportation. In the late 1800s, America saw its first “limited immigration” act, solely based on nationality.

It wasn’t until the 1940 fire on Angel Island that the West Coast immigration station was officially shut down. Immigration processing was moved back to the mainland.

Then in 1954, California State Parks purchased approximately 37 acres on Angel Island in order to form the Angel Island State Park. Additional land was purchased 4 years later, with the entire island being turned over to be included in the state park by the end of 1962. The island does still house two active U.S. Coast Guard lighthouses.

Also in 1962, the Chinese American community worked with the State of California to get the island and immigration station recognized as a state landmark.

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