New jersey-the supreme court ruled 6 to 3 on may 26, 1998 that ellis island, the historical gateway to america and the most visible symbol of the nations ethnic heritage, belongs mostly to new jersey, not new york.the decision challenged many long-standing assumptions, including those of some justices, who said they initially thought their forebears landed on ellis island, n.y.but after a more careful review of the historic record, the court ruled that most of the 27-acre island falls within new jerseys borders, using as the basis for its decision an agreement between the two states signed in 1834.because the federal government controls the island and today operates it as a national park, as a practical matter not much will change because of the high courts decision. what the ruling does is give new jersey potential tax revenue, a greater voice in future development of the island and - perhaps most important for the two grudge partners - a definitive answer on who can claim the bragging rights to one of americas most celebrated landmarks. close to 2 million tourists visit ellis island every year and more than 100 million people can claim that a relative passed through there when the island served as an entry port for immigrants earlier this century.every mapmaker in the world has some work to do, new jersey attorney general peter verniero said yesterday, adding that the island is a national treasure that now new jersey can rightly lay some claim to.but new york attorney general dennis c. vacco countered that ellis island will always mean more than boundaries drawn by men or courts. her past clearly belongs to new york. her future belongs to all americans.relying mostly on the 1834 compact, special master paul r. verkuil said the filled lands did indeed belong to new jersey. in his recommendations to the court, verkuil urged the justices to depart only slightly from the 1834 agreement for practical reasons, so that some now-existing buildings would not be split between the states.the justices followed most of his recommendations but said they had no authority to change the boundary, even if it was practical to do so.[t]he lands surrounding the original island remained the sovereign property of new jersey when the united states added landfill to them, justice david h. souter wrote for the court. he added that a more convenient boundary line is a matter for an arrangement between the states themselves, with the consent of the federal government.souter rejected new yorks position that even if the landfilled areas were once new jerseys, new york had long ago usurped control of the island in upper new york bay, 1,300 feet from jersey city, n.j., and one mile from the tip of manhattan in new york city.many of us have parents or grandparents who landed as immigrants at ellis island, new york, justice stephen g. breyer wrote in a concurring statement signed by justice ruth bader ginsberg. and when this case is argued, i assumed that history would bear out that ellis island was part and parcel of new york. but that is not what the record has revealed.source: the washington post, may 27, 1998:------------- ellis island - history from 1892 to 1954, over twelve million immigrants entered the united states through the portal of ellis island, a small island in new york harbor. ellis island is located in the upper bay just off the new jersey coast, within the shadow of the statue of liberty. through the years, this gateway to the new world was enlarged from its original 3.3 acres to 27.5 acres mostly by landfill obtained from ship ballast and possibly excess earth from the construction of the new york city subway system.before being designated as the site of the first federal immigration station by president benjamin harrison in 1890, ellis island had a varied history. the local indian tribes had called it kioshk or gull island. due to its rich and abundant oyster beds and plentiful and profitable shad runs, it was known as oyster island for many generations during the dutch and english colonial periods. by the time samuel ellis became the islands private owner in the 1770s, the island had been called kioshk, oyster, dyre, bucking and andersons island. in this way, ellis island developed from a sandy island that barely rose above the high tide mark, into a hanging site for pirates, a harbor fort, ammunition and ordinance depot named fort gibson, and finally into an immigration station.from 1794 to 1890 (pre-immigration station period), ellis island played a mostly uneventful but still important military role in united states history. when the british occupied new york city during the duration of the revolutionary war, its large and powerful naval fleet was able to sail unimpeded directly into new york harbor. therefore, it was deemed critical by the united states government that a series of coastal fortifications in new york harbor be constructed just prior to the war of 1812. after much legal haggling over ownership of the island, the federal government purchased ellis island from new york state in 1808. ellis island was approved as a site for fortifications and on it was constructed a parapet for three tiers of circular guns, making the island part of the new harbor defense system that included castle clinton at the battery, castle williams on governors island, fort wood on bedloes island and two earthworks forts at the entrance to new york harbor at the verrazano narrows. the fort at ellis island was named fort gibson in honor of a brave officer killed during the war of 1812.