5. The Ellis Island Hospital Complex Stands on Man Made Islands Built from Subway Landfill


Image courtesy Save Ellis Island

Did you know that the only natural part of Ellis Island spanned just 3.3 acres? Between the years 1903-1910, two new islands were constructed in order to create additional space there, bringing the island’s present day footprint to roughly 27.5 acres. The foundation upon where the abandoned Ellis Island hospital currently stands is actually man made — built out of landfill that was excavated during the construction of the New York City subway (we host a tour there too).
The 22 buildings of the hospital were spread out over the two southern islands (Islands 2 and 3), with Island 2 housing the hospital administration and contagious diseases ward, and Island 3 housing the psychiatric ward. However, the space between the islands was eventually filled in during the 1920’s to create the base for what was to become a great lawn. That’s because it was believed that fresh air and sunlight were vital for the treatment of diseases. Also read about other man made islands here.