Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ellis Island Hospital - Photo: Clara Daly
Ellis Island served as an immigration processing center for the US from 1892 until 1954. For the vast majority of people immigrating to America, it was known as “The Island of Hope.” For others, it was “The Island of Tears.” Over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. Official statistics indicate that of those, 2% were rejected due to health reasons. Reasons for deportation were wide and varied—from diphtheria or whooping cough, to signs of insanity, “feeblemindedness,” or other conditions that would prevent applicants from earning a living. 

Tuberculosis Ward

The Ellis Island inspection process lasted approximately three to five hours. The inspections took place in the Registry Room (or Great Hall), where doctors scanned for obvious physical ailments. By 1916, it was said that a doctor could identify numerous medical conditions with just a glance. The two agencies responsible for processing immigrants at Ellis Island were the United States Public Health Service and the Bureau of Immigration (later known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service - INS). 

Ellis Island Morgue
As the station's needs expanded, so did the island. Ellis Island was
enlarged from its original 3.3 acres to 27.5 acres by landfill supposedly obtained from the ballast of ships, excess earth from the construction of the New York City subway system and elsewhere. This land was used for the complex of hospitals built to treat immigrants who failed their medical inspections. Also added? Dormitories, a dispensary…and a morgue. Is it any wonder then that rumors of hauntings exist on Ellis Island? 

To view more photos of the abandoned buildings on Ellis Island, or to read more visit:

And be sure to check out the Edge of Freedom series by Elizabeth Ludwig - Historical Suspense set in New York City and on Ellis Island from Bethany House Publishers. Book three in the series, Tide and Tempest--which mentions the morgue and other forgotten Ellis Island locations--releases TODAY!

1 comment :

  1. This is fascinating, Lisa. I was partiacularly interested to read that the doctors began to be able to tell just by a glance who was sick and who wasn't. Can you imagine the agony of someone ill waiting in that line? I wonder what happened to those people who couldn't recover. Like someone who had TB (consumption). Were they returned home or treated on the island until they died?

    Great article!


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