After disembarking and taking a ferry to the main building, every immigrant went through the same process.
They would leave their belongings in a baggage room, undergo a medical exam, and be interviewed by agents to make sure they were legally able to come to the U.S.
The routine took hours, days, or weeks, and not everyone was given the go-ahead to enter New York City.
But if they did, America’s newest arrivals were free to move on.
They went to a money-exchange area, collected their bags, and waited at the foot of the stairs of the Great Hall to reunite with family already in New York.
One pillar in the room was the location of so many emotional family reunions, it became known as the kissing post. It’s marked with a plaque today.