NEW YORK — The island that ushered millions of immigrants into the United States and became a monument to its mosaic of ancestries reopened to visitors Monday for the first time since Hurricane Sandy, adding a chapter to the narrative of hard-won recovery on the eve of the storm’s anniversary.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum has not fully recovered from the floods that filled its basement; many of its more than 1 million photographs and other artifacts are still in storage, and officials have not yet repaired computers the public can use to research forebears.
But visitors were able to return to much of the graceful main building, including some exhibits, and to absorb the island’s singular views of the nearby Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan.
Sandy’s surge swamped Ellis Island, the entry point for about 12 million newcomers from 1892 to 1954 and a public historic site since 1976.
David Luchsinger, the National Park Service superintendent for the island and the Statue of Liberty, arrived the day after Sandy to find doors and windows blown out, pilings strewn on the grounds, and the basement full of water, which destroyed the electric, heating, air conditioning, and phone systems.
Liberty Island was also inundated during Sandy and reopened on July Fourth, only to close again for a time during the recent partial federal government shutdown.
The flood waters did not touch the Ellis Island exhibits, which are on the first and higher floors, but they were later moved to storage because they could have deteriorated
Rebuilding and stormproofing the electrical and other networks without marring the 1900 Beaux-Arts-style building was a challenge to plan and is still a $21 million, 18-month work in progress.