In time, Angel Island began to recede into memory like fog in the bay. The traumatic experiences the Chinese community had faced there were rarely if ever mentioned to future generations, until 1970, shortly before the scheduled destruction of the barracks. At this time, a California State Park Ranger, Alexander Weiss, rediscovered the poetry on the walls of the abandoned barracks. Ranger Weiss contacted Professor George Araki of San Francisco State College and photographer Mak Takahashi; together they photographed the walls of the barracks. Sparked by the discovery, Bay Area Asian Americans, spearheaded by Paul Chow, formed the Angel Island Immigration Station Historical Advisory Committee (AIISHAC). This organization studied how best to preserve the station for historical interpretation.
In July 1976, their hard work came to fruition as the state legislature appropriated $250,000 to restore and preserve the barracks as a state monument. In 1983, the barracks opened to the public and members of AIISHAC created the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF) to continue preservation and educational efforts regarding the site. AIISF is the non-profit partner of California State Parks and the National Park Service in the work to restore the historic immigration station at Angel Island. AIISF’s mission includes both the preservation of the site and education about the role of Pacific Rim immigration in U.S. history.
In 1997, the Angel Island Immigration Station was declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. In 1999, Save America’s Treasures, a project of the National Trust and the White House Millennium Council, adopted Angel Island Immigration Station as one of its Official Projects, providing $500,000 for the preservation of the precious Chinese poems carved into the barracks walls. In March 2000, California voters passed a state bond measure that set aside $15 million specifically for restoration of the Angel Island Immigration Station.
In 2004, the Immigration Station was closed for a major retrofitting and renovation work. Over the next five years, many changes were made to the detention barracks: a new roof was installed, an elevator and wheel chair lift were added, new exhibits were created to highlight the significance of the Chinese poetry carved on the walls, and exhibits such as the interrogation table and other interpretive signs were placed on the grounds of the old administration building.
In February 2009, the immigration station reopened. In 2010 work began to stabilize the immigration station hospital, a two-story, and 10,000 square foot structure, directly across from the detention barracks. The hospital played an important role at the immigration station as the site of inspection, quarantine, and healing of immigrants.
The first phase of the hospital project is the stabilization of the structure, which has suffered significant water damage and structural weakening. By spring 2012, a new roof and gutters had been installed at the hospital, and the interior walls had been strengthened. The rehabilitation of hospital will begin in fall 2013 and last until 2017. The restored hospital will feature interpretation of the medical treatment of immigrants, mainly through exhibits in one of the four hospital wards, the surgery room, the quarantine room, and the nurses’ station. Other parts of the hospital will be rehabilitated to create exhibition space, lecture and performance spaces, a café, a reflection area/library, meeting rooms, and a genealogy resource area.
The Angel Island Immigration Station continues to be a part of America’s story. The Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation hopes to bring its history to light and to make its lessons part of our national dialogue about the complicated intersection of race, immigration and the American identity.
California State Parks and the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation wish to thank the following contributors whose generosity made possible the completion of Phase One of the restoration of the U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island
Major Funders: A Save America’s Treasures federal grant, administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior; Save America’s Treasures at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, including major support from: The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Marin Community Foundation, The J. Paul Getty Trust’s Preservation Planning Fund, and Ms. Yeni Wong; The National Trust for Historic Preservation through: American Express Partners in Preservation program, in partnership with the American Express Foundation, The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors, and The Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation; California Cultural and Historical Endowment; California Parks Bond Act of 2000, Gee Family Foundation, Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Walter and Elise Haas Fund, and J.T. Tai & Company Foundation.
Additional Funders: Thomas & Eva Fong Family Foundation, Ken Lee Family Foundation, Lawrence Choy Lowe Memorial Fund, and Look Lowe Family Trust.
With special appreciation to the following: Angel Island Immigration Station Historical Advisory Committee, Architectural Resources Group, California State Parks Foundation, California State Senator John Burton, Donald Bybee, Chris Chow, Paul Chow, Phillip Choy, Ruth Coleman, Charles Egan, Erika Gee, Nicholas Franco, Forrest Gok, Elizabeth Goldstein, Dave Gould, Tod Hara, Daniel Iacofano, Kathy Lim Ko, Kimball Koch, Daphne Kwok, Him Mark Lai, Erika Lee, Newton Liu, Wan Liu, Felicia Lowe, David Matthews, Dale Minami, Ray Murray, Brian O’Neill, National Archives-San Francisco, Francelle Phillips, Daniel Quan Design, Danita Rodriguez, Douglas Tom, Katherine Toy, Kathy Owyang Turner, Xing Chu Wang, Connie Yung Yu, and Judy Yung.