“the stranger within thy gates” – Statue of Liberty Commemorative Half Dollar Coin

Today, the Statue of Liberty Commemorative Half Dollar Coin remembers the end of one facility’s reign as an “emigration depot” and its return to the city 125 years ago.

Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York from 1891 gave the following information about the transfer of the facility back to the City of New York:

City of New York, Finance Department,

Comptroller’s Office, December 29, 1890.

At a meeting of the commissioners of the sinking fund, held December 29, 1890, the following preamble and resolution were adopted:

Whereas, The Board of Commissioners of Emigration of the State of New York adopted a resolution on December 23, 1890, providing for the surrender of Castle Garden to the city of New York at noon on the 31st day of December, 1890.

Resolved, That the comptroller of the city of New York be and is hereby authorized and directed to receive the surrender of Castle Garden from the Commissioners of Emigration, and to take possession of said premises as custodian of the city, at the time mentioned in said resolution, to wit, at noon on December 31, 1890, the Commissioners of Emigration to be no longer liable for rent of the premises after that date.


===== The Annual Report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society to the Legislature of New York in April 1903 gave the objective of the facility:

In 1855 Castle Garden was converted into an immigrant depot, and for thirty-five years was a veritable water-gate to the Continent, not for the reception of occasional distinguished guests, but for the admission of multitudes of “the stranger within thy gates,” who came, over the great water to seek opportunity for “life, liberty and the pursuit Of happiness.”

During that period between eight and ten millions of pilgrims from foreign lands were given entrance into the United States.

On December 31, 1890, the Commissioners of Immigration formally surrendered the structure to the city, the immigration headquarters having previously been transferred to another building on the Battery.


Appleton’s Dictionary of New York and Vicinity for 1904 provided a brief history of Castle Garden:

Castle Garden, situated in Battery park on the extreme southern point of Manhattan Island, was used until the spring of 1890 as the immigrant depot.

The control of the immigrants has, however, been taken from the local authorities, and is now with the United States Government, and the regular landing place is on Ellis Island.

Castle Garden was originally a fort, and afterward was converted into a summer garden, whence it derives the name which it still bears.

It was used in former times for civic and military displays, and receptions.

In 1824, when the Marquis de Lafayette revisited this country, a grand ball was given in his honor at Castle Garden; and in 1832 President Jackson, and in 1843 President John Tyler, were also publicly received in the Garden.

Subsequently it became a concert hall, and as such is famous as the place where Jenny Lind made her first appearance in America, when her European reputation and P. T. Barnum’s management secured tor her an audience of such brilliance as has rarely, if ever, been seen in this country.

In 1855 the immigrant depot was established within its walls.

At noon of December 31, 1890, the Garden was formally surrendered to the city by the State Commissioners of Emigration.

It is now occupied by a large public aquarium.


The Congressional Edition, Volume 5264, from 1908, presented statistics on the people landing at the site:

Alien steerage passengers landed at the port of New York under the jurisdiction of the State board of emigration, beginning May 1, 1855, the opening of Castle Garden as an “emigrant landing depot,” to April 18, 1890, the closing of Castle Garden.

May 1 to Dec. 31, 1855 – 51,114

1856 – 142,342
1857 – 183,773
1858 – 78,589
1859 – 79,322
1860 – 105,162

1861 – 65,539
1862 – 76,306
1863 – 155,844
1864 – 180,296
1865 – 196,352
1866 – 233,418
1867 – 242,731
1868 – 213,695
1869 – 258,989
1870 – 212,170

1871 – 227,639
1872 – 294,581
1873 – 266,818
1874 – 140,041
1875 – 84,560
1876 – 68,264
1877 – 54,536
1878 – 75,347
1879 – 135,070
1880 – 327,371

1881 – 455,681
1882 – 476,086
1883 – 405,909
1884 – 330,030
1885 – 291,066
1886 – 321,814
1887 – 405,405
1888 – 419,718
1889 – 349,233
1890 – 85,795

Castle Garden saw the landing of 7,690,606 persons as an “emigration depot.”


The Statue of Liberty Commemorative Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s image of immigrants arriving at Castle Garden, circa 1880.

Statue of Liberty Commemorative Half Dollar Coin