Photo by James and Karla Murray
While Ellis Island has become one of New York City’s top tourist attractions, drawing over two million visitors per year, the 22-building South Side hospital complex is hidden in plain sight, just to the left of disembarking passengers headed towards the Great Hall. One of the largest public health undertakings in American history, the complex once served as the standard for United States medical care. But that’s difficult to imagine today given its skeletal frame, which has been left to decay for nearly 60 years.
Despite its current state, however, the walls of the hospital continue to reverberate with history, untold stories and amazing facts. That’s why Untapped Cities hosts tours there in partnership with Save Ellis Island, the organization responsible for the preservation of the island. Every week, we bring our readers behind-the-scenes for a truly unique exploration of the abandoned facility, where they have the opportunity to access the hospital’s contagious disease wards, its autopsy rooms and other exclusive places usually closed to the public.
As a teaser for our tour, which you can purchase tickets for below, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite secrets about the hospital complex: Behind-the-Scenes Hard Hat Tour of Ellis Island Hospital
10. There is an Art Installation on View at the Ellis Island Hospital Complex
Walking the hallways of an abandoned hospital would give anyone shivers. But what if apparitions from times past unexpectedly appeared in the adjoining rooms, windows, and staircases? Scattered within the South Side hospital complex on Ellis Island, you can spot Unframed, an installation by Parisian street artist JR that opened on October 1, 2014.
JR is known for his installations of large-scale photographs in places accessible to the public like New York City’s Times Square, the Pantheon in Paris, and the favelas of Brazil. For this project, he partnered with Save Ellis Island and blew up photos from the island’s archives to paste on the walls of the hospital.
This means that all the images you see on view were actually captured on Ellis Island. Only one, however, is presented in the very spot the photograph was taken. It’s of the hospital’s psychopathic ward (psychiatric ward), which has a caged-in porch area (see above). Learn more about the installation here.