These newly released photographs, taken by New York photographer Ian Ference, show the processing center where Irish immigrants from Annie Moore to the last in 1954 touched down on US soil to begin their search for “The American Dream”.
The images in this collect, published online by the Daily Mail, show a dust-strewn interior, abandoned for decades. It was not until 2008 that this hospital and the inspection complexes began part of the Statue of Liberty Monument, one of New York’s biggest tourist attractions.
At the height of immigration into the US, between the 1890s and the 1950s, millions of immigrants would have passed through these doors.
Photographer, Ian Ference, “There are few places I can think of where so much history is stuffed onto a 27-acre island.”
It was the experiences of the people who came through the Ellis Island facility that captured Ian's imagination.
He said “One half of the Ellis Island story is the joy of those who passed through the golden door…Those who made landfall with hearts filled with the promise of a new life, freedoms and hope.
“But sometimes families who made it through the perilous voyage surviving on crusts of bread, perhaps losing a member en route, only to find out that one of the children had an illness.
“They would have a short time to say goodbye, and the child would be quarantined and sent home, never to see their family again.
“I wished to capture what the buildings looked like at a particular moment in time, to freeze them that way.
“That is the job of the preservationist photographer - to capture moments for posterity.”
The doctors on Ellis Island has the charge of deciding whether the new arrivals were fit to start a new life in America.
Ference said “The hospital complex consists of over 20 buildings constructed between 1902 and 1914.
“It was intended to be a full-scale medical facility, even boasting operating rooms with skylights for light in the event of power failures or other lapses in artificial lighting during surgeries.
“Over the next few years, the purpose of the hospital shifted dramatically from treatment of acute conditions to quarantine and isolation.
“Various wards for the containment of contagious diseases were added to the facility, along with laundry facilities, a pathology lab, and a morgue in an autopsy theatre.
“This allowed medical students to observe the autopsies of deceased immigrants.”
“The Baggage and Dormitory Building” was on the north of the island, explained Ference. However he added that the name of this building was little more than a euphemism.
He said “Over the 55 years in which it was utilized, the sorts of undesirables it housed would change many times.
“Socialists and radicals as well as Germans, Italians and Japanese all got periods of prominence in the detention facility.
“During World War 2, it was used to house prisoners of war.
“Like the rest of the island, it was abandoned in 1954.”