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07-Ellis Island 21A room in which autopsies were conducted on bodies in front of a group of doctors

Ellis Island, the gateway to the United States for millions of immigrants from 1892 to 1954, has become one of New York City’s top tourist attractions, drawing over two million visitors per year. Hiding in plain sight, just to the left of disembarking passengers headed towards the Great Hall, is the 22-building South Side hospital complex, once the standard for United States medical care, and one of the largest public health undertakings in American history. A volunteer group, Save Ellis Island, has been raising public awareness about the remarkable operation that took place in its walls, which have been left to decay since the hospital complex nearly 60 years ago.

Of the more than 12 million immigrants who traveled through Ellis island before it shut its doors in 1954, an incredible 10% (or 1.2 million) were given further examinations for concerns related to their physical or mental health. Here are some beautiful photos by  Clara Daly, previously of Ward9.

Read more about the abandoned and degrading hospital complex from our piece Partners in Preservation campaign.

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03-Ellis Island 26These coal ovens would’ve supplied power to much of, if not all of, the island.

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The desolate skeletal frame is visible in these pictures. Chipped paint and rusted metal fills the hospital. The story of the hospital was covered in depth in a 2008 documentary entitled Forgotten Ellis Island by the film maker Lorie Conway. Research was done over 9 years with Conway contacting family members of the past patients, digging through government archives, and spending substantial amount of time on-site.

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1 Comment

  1. A little over 20 years ago, while still on the staff of the NYC Landmarks Commission, I wandered through all the buildings at Ellis Island, including those on the abandoned south side of the complex (there are actually three “islands” as they’re called – Ellis is in the shape of a capital “E”). Before the court decision that awarded most of the island to New Jersey, New York assumed Ellis Island to be in New York City, and the Landmarks Commission designated the entire island as one big historic district. I drew the enviable task of doing the research and writing the official report. It runs 77 pages, and includes maps, historic photos, lists of existing structures, lists of demolished structures, descriptions of same, and photos from 1993 (which I suppose now also count as historic photos). The report is free and available to the public – your tax dollars at work. Here’s the link: http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/ELLIS_ISLAND_-_HISTORIC_DISTRICT.pdf

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