May 1, 2017

Ellis Island

In late April I attended a hard hat tour of the restricted area of Ellis Island. While the museum on the north side of the island has been restored, the hospitals on the south side have, for the most part, remain unrenovated and are in the state they were in when it was shut down in 1956. It had rained the day before and earlier that morning, but the rain stayed away for our walk. It was overcast all day, and foggy at times, but I didn’t mind because that’s great light for shooting since there’s no harsh sunlight to deal with.

Exterior of hospital
Exterior of the hospital

One of the first rooms we went into was the laundry facility.

Washing machine
Washing machine
Washing machine
Washing machine mounted below the floor, for some reason

“UNFRAMED - Ellis Island” by artist JR can be found on many walls, windows, and other structures in many areas of the abandoned buildings. It uses old photographs of Ellis Island, and attempts to bridge the present with the past.

Laundry room windows
Laundry room windows

There is so much character all over the south side of the island. Rust, broken windows, peeling paint, and broken floors are everywhere you look.


Hurricane Sandy hit the area in late 2012, and while it did not damage the buildings, the flooding did dislodge many of the steps from external stairs, and the Ellis Island staff moved them to an out-of-the-way area of the grounds.

Stair steps in a yard

We visited the pharmacist’s house which included the pharmacist’s office and rooms for the staff to live in.

Pharmacist's office
Pharmacist's office
Pharmacist's room
Room in the pharmacist's house
Sterialization chamber
This was used to sterilize mattresses after patients were done with them
Administrative office
The hospital included a morgue and autopsy stadium
The kitchen included a large iron hood above where a stove used to be, which was transformed into the hull of a ship by JR
Love the character and combination of lettering on this sign

Towards the end of the tour, the fog was cooperating enough to get some shots of lower Manhattan.

That didn’t last long.

And of course, some obligatory shots of the Statue of Liberty.