Angel Island superintendent
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The walls still talk at Angel Island

Angel Island Park Superintendent Dave Matthews walks past “Poem 69,” carved into a wall at the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay, where desperate detainees recorded their experiences between 1910 and 1940. After a five-year renovation costing $16 million, the station will be reopened to the public Feb. 15. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
The western tip of Angel Island, left, with the city of San Francisco in the background. The 740-acre island became the symbol of a shameful chapter in Chinese American history, when laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred some immigrants on the basis of race for the first time (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
A historical Angel Island photo shows arrivals on the pier in the early 1900s. Angel Island was patterned after Ellis Island in New York Harbor, but law and geopolitics conspired to make it a vastly different experience -- especially for Chinese immigrants. ()
Chinese men being medically examined in the early 1900s. About 350,000 immigrants are believed to have been held on Angel Island. ()
The receiving building at Angel Island burns in this 1940 photograph. After the station was shuttered, it was turned over to the state park service and slated for demolition in the 1970s. But a sharp-eyed ranger spotted the ghostly verses on the walls, and demolition was canceled. ()
An official U.S. Labor Department document that belonged to detainee Jiu Row is on display in a bunk room at the station. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
Park Superintendent Dave Matthews, center, and immigration station interpreters Craig Blackstock, left, and James Dexter look at the hands-on exhibits inside a bunk room. Some Chinese detainees had only blankets instead of mattresses in the years between 1910 and 1940. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
Immigration station intrepreter James Dexter holds a historical photograph in which the hillside dormitory can be seen at left. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
Park Superintendent Dave Matthews walks past the bell monument that marks the base of the pier where detainees were brought to Angel Island. The bell bears the date 1910; the pier itself has disintegrated. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)