As the first decade of the 20th Century came to a close, there was need for a new immigration center for the Port of Philadelphia. The City of Philadelphia was unable to provide the United States Immigration Commission an affordable location for newly arriving immigrates to the Port of Philadelphia. Gloucester City's William Thompson offered for sale to the U.S. Government, his mansion located on the Delaware River; thus, resulting in the Immigration Station for the Port of Philadelphia being located in Gloucester City, New Jersey.
Thompson's mansion would become the administration building, a large detention building would be constructed as well as large pier.
Ground was broken for the detention building in 1911 and the pier was operational on March, 17th, 1914.
Due to the outbreak of World War One, immigration from Europe was dramatically curtailed. As the United States entered the war, immigration centers in the U.S. were used to detain citizens from enemy countries. This would also be repeated during the Second World War.
The United States Immigration Commission would change the way new immigrants were processed upon arriving to America. Rather than having the vessels coming to a central pier, like they did at Ellis Island in New York harbor, Gloucester would have the immigration inspectors go to the vessels locations, perform the inspections and only immigrants who had issues would be brought to the Gloucester Detention building.
During the 1930's the station would be used by the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) employees who would transcribe United States hand written documents into typed documents.
The Gloucester station would be closed after WWII and the facility would be transferred the United States Coast Guard.
Prior to the Coast Guard taking control of the facility, the U.S. government would tragically tear down the Thompson mansion.
In 1911, Gloucester City was selected as the location for the U.S. Immigration Center for the Philadelphia Area.
1914 - The Detention Center was built and the former mansion of William Thompson was used as the Administration Building.
1914 - U.S. Immigration Station
Gloucester City NJ
Detention Center on the left
Administration building on the right.
1914 - U.S. Immigration Station
Gloucester City NJ
Detention Center in the background and the Administration in the foreground.
1918 - U.S. Immigration Center at Gloucester City, NJ
Enemy aliens on way to detention camp.
Enemy aliens on way to detention camp. Dangerous enemy aliens corralled by Secret Service operatives at Gloucester, New Jersey, starting on their journey to an internment "somewhere in the South."
Women relatives accompanied the men to the station. The party was guarded by armed soldiers on their way to the station and on their journey South.
The photo shows the aliens waiting for the order to move. The dog, a pet of one of the Kaiser's subjects accompanied the party.
[ National Archives of the United States ]
1910 - William Thompson's Mansion prior to become the Administration building for the U.S. Immigration Station
1910 - William Thompson's Mansion waterfront side prior to become the Administration building for the U.S. Immigration Station
1924 Gloucester City New Jersey waterfront showing the Immigration Station.
Waterfront in Gloucester (N.J.),Hagley ID 70_200_00122, J. Victor Dallin Aerial Survey collection (Accession 1970.200), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807
Below are images from inside the the center when the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) employees worked there.
Leading up to World War Two, the United States would suspect that some merchants vessels belonging to any of the partner countries of the Axis alliance ( Germany, Italy, and Japan ) were a risk to the United States harbors.
The U.S. would take custody of the vessels and their crews would be held at the Immigration Station at Gloucester. This action by the U.S. would be a major national news story covered by the local Philadelphia press.
Photographs below show Italians interned at Gloucester Immigration Station starting on April 22, 1941.
This is before the US had entered WWII. The Italians were taken from sabotaged ships in Philadelphia's Harbor, The Italians were likely ordered to disable their vessel if the U.S. was to attempt to confiscate them?
"Most of the 179 internees shown are Italian seamen"
Philadelphia Record news clippings
[ Historical Society of Pennsylvania ]
Some high profile detainees at the U.S. Immigration Station at Gloucester City, NJ
Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was held at the Gloucester Immigration Station from Dec 1941 until June 1942.
She was a high profile detainee.
She personally was awarded by Hitler with a Nazi Party's Gold Medal of Honour. She often visited with Hitler.
By many accounts she was considered a Nazi Spy and she was Jewish.
She came to the US when World War II broke out in Europe.
Orders to have her deported were issued but Lemuel Schofield, head of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service allowed her to stay in the US.
Once the US entered WWII, she was arrested and sent to Gloucester. Lemuel Schofield saw to it she received special treatment while at Gloucester.
When President Roosevelt found out that Princess Stephanie had not been deported prior to the war and that she was getting special treatment at Gloucester, he was furious.
Schofield had to resign and Princess Stephanie was moved to Dallas.
While being held in Dallas she convinced many that she opposed Hitler once she realized she did not agree with his policies. In March 1944 a review board recommended that Princess Stephanie should be released. President Roosevelt had to over rule her release.
After the War she was released and lived with Schofield in New York and later in Phoenixville PA, as man and wife.
After Schofield died, Princess Stephanie went on to be a reporter and later interviewed Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
Several books have been written about her.
April 1929 - Albert Buschow stow away aboard Graf Zeppelin.
Albert Buschow photographed at the immigration station at Gloucester, NJ. He was a stow away aboard the Graf Zeppelin.
This 17 year old baker's boy jumped from a hanger in Germany, as the Graf Zeppelin left for America.
1941-1942: Dr. Hermann Ranke was a world-renowned Egyptologist and for about three weeks a resident of Gloucester City.
He was one the first people in modern time to look upon the Queen Nefertiti bust when it was discovered in 1912.
Dr. Ranke was working at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia when Germany declared war on the United States in 1941.
Ranke, being a German was "invited" to spend some time in Gloucester City for about a month at the Gloucester City U.S. Immigration Detention Center. His stay was only a couple of weeks and he returned to his position at the U. of Penn.
Ranke's wife was Half-Jewish and she was in southern Germany. He returned to Germany in the Summer of 1942 to be with his wife. They both survived the war and he returned to teaching.
The Gloucester City Immigration Station is mentioned in the TLC(c) television show "Who Do You Think You Are".
Actress - Lea Michele family history took a path through the Gloucester City when Michele's great grand mother Benuta Veissy immigrated in May of 1918 and was detained at Ellis Island for reasons that today may seem inconceivable: She could not read or write. The Immigration Act of 1917 barred all immigrants over the age of sixteen who were illiterate. She was transferred to Gloucester City for 6 months.