Field Trip Friday: Ellis Island’s South Side and Ferry Building

After OHNY Weekend last year, the staff celebrated by taking a tour of Ellis Island‘s South Side.  Led by Dennis Mulligan, of the National Parks Service, we explored the abandoned buildings normally closed to the public and spent some time at the Immigration Museum and new Ferry Building, which reopened in 2007 as an education center for the site.

An entire hospital ward, occupying around half of the island’s total land area, occupies the south side. A variety of structures, including a 750-bed hospital, mortuary, measles wards, and hospital director’s house – 29 buildings in all – once bustled with activity. They were abandoned in 1954 and currently lie in a state of “controlled ruin,” deteriorating more with each passing day.

The site gives a haunting feeling of the past, now eerily bereft of the people who once filled its halls. Here, immigrants were put through legal checks and “six second” health inspections. The ten percent of immigrants who did not pass the health inspections were detained for treatments, further inspection, or, in some cases, quarantine. First- and second-class passengers in need of medical attention, who ordinarily would not have entered the United States through Ellis Island, used the facilities as well.

Future plans for the area range from renovations of the hospital lawn, laundry, and hospital outbuilding, to creating a bed & breakfast near a measles ward, or simply to leave the buildings in a permanent state of decay. The National Parks Service states that their preferred plan would be to create an “Ellis Island Institute with Overnight Accommodations.” Please see the National Park’s Development Concepts for Ellis Island for more information on the redevelopment plan.

The south side of Ellis Island

The south side of Ellis Island

Walking to the hospital

Walking to the hospital

Windows in the south side

Windows in the south side

Fireplace

Fireplace

Housing for patients

Housing for patients

Staff

Staff

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