Ellis Island: From ‘sad side’ to saving ‘South Side’

A century ago, the hospital complex at the historic Ellis Island immigration inspection station was where approximately one out of every 10 arrivals who were too sick to be allowed into the country were sent to recover, or to die.
The 29-building medical complex – in its day the largest public health institution in the U.S. – was itself left to die when the immigration station closed in 1954. Ellis Island’s Main Building was restored and reopened as an immigration museum in 1990. But the hospital complex on the island’s south side remained shuttered for 60 years until two months ago, when officials opened the dilapidated buildings for public viewing.

“Even though much of the hospital equipment is no longer here, these special buildings are able to speak volumes,” said Superintendent John Piltzecker of Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. “The National Park Service is pleased to work with Save Ellis Island in their efforts to bring visitors to the South Side to learn more about the island’s unique story through this special tour program.”
The hard-hat tours take visitors through select areas of the 750-bed medical complex which have been stabilized and partially restored – including large hospital wards, kitchens, laundry facilities and morgues.
“The tour is for history buffs and especially photography lovers,” said Yahoo News photojournalist Gordon Donovan, who recently took the 90-minute tour and shares his images above.
“The fading colors of the interiors, corroding machinery, metal stairs and doors. Strong textures and challenging lighting are wonderful photography experiences you should not miss.” Proceeds from tours go toward the continuing preservation and restoration of the hospital complex.
Ellis Island Ellis Island Ellis Island
Ellis Island Ellis Island Ellis Island
Ellis Island Ellis Island Ellis Island
Ellis Island Ellis Island
See more photos on Yahoo News »


  1. Reply
    susan March 18, 2015

    Dear Gordon,
    Thank you for sharing these pictures. I agree we shouldn’t lose ‘sight’ pun intended, of our history. These images are haunting….for many reasons.

    Much Success,

  2. Reply
    Randall Scott Burton April 14, 2019

    What an extraordinary photographer you are Gordon my compliments Randall Burton Salem Oregon

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