Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The United States Immigrant Isolation Hospital at Ellis Island

Ellis island is a largely man-made body of land in the Upper New York Bay in Jersey City, New Jersey. It was supplemented in the late 1800's with landfill from the New York City subway projects. In 1892, an immigrant inspection station was built on the island, to screen the patients coming to America from all over the world. Once they were deemed to be in good health, they would be shipped off the island to New York City, where they would begin a new life. However, if you were sick, you received a chalk mark on your collar and were sent to the immigration hospital on the south side of the island. In 1990, the main inspection building became an immigration museum. The twenty two hospital buildings, however, remain abandoned and off limits to the public. In October 2014, small groups started to be allowed back in the hospital in order to document the decaying buildings. I was lucky enough to be part of one of these groups.

1. The main hospital buildings. This was the first public health hospital in the United States, built in 1902 in a Georgian Revival style. The central block was the administration building, and the right and left buildings were for men and women, respectively. The rounded accents you see on the buildings are actually skylights for the 4 operating rooms the hospital held.

2. The buildings have all been boarded from floor to ceiling, but they have vents and windows cut into them to allow the buildings to breathe and for light to enter.

3. Here is one of the stairwells inside the wards.

4. An artist was let in to the buildings to glue some blown up photographs to the walls and windows. I think its incredibly disrespectful, and as such i didn't take many photo's of them. Despite the tour guide constantly telling me "this is what you're here to see" and "I want you to take pictures of this"...

5. The hospital was one of the most well respected teaching hospitals in the US. Roughly 20 percent of the immigrants who made it to the island ended up here. 3,500 of them never made it off.

6. The wards were typical hospital designs, with dayrooms at the end of the halls and plenty of bedrooms.

7. A few of the wards at the end had curved hallways between them.

8. The outside of the same hallway.

9. The Statue of Liberty, from between abandoned wards. This is the one thing the tour guide told me to take photos of that I actually listened to.

10. The ward buildings were not as nice as the main hospital buildings, but i still think they have a certain charm.

11. I believe this was the nurses residence, as it was more decorated than the bleek wards.

12. The kitchen was incredibly hard to shoot without a tripod. The wooden beams cutting across between the walls were used to stabilize the crumbling structures. The hospital closed its doors in the 1930's, and was used for another couple decades as a POW camp and FBI facility before officially being vacated in 1954.

13. The hallways were really tight in some spots.

14. Finally, a leaving shot of the front of the wards. Much nicer looking from up front, but still pretty foreboding.

Hopefully one day the buildings will be open for everybody to be able to traipse through at will. As of right now, the island is under the control of Homeland Security and the United States Park Police. The only access to the abandoned part of the island is through a building that holds a gymnasium that belongs to Homeland Security. Please do not try to access the abandoned side of the island without permission, it will not work.

Everyone can check out the website for the group who is responsible for offering the tours. They have been working for a very long time to restore the island to it's former glory.

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