Greatest Accomplishments

Ellis Island

A Decade Long Campaign Celebrates Milestones


The Ferry Building at Ellis Island

Conservancy staff and contractors at work in 1997, repairing roofs and clearing brush, at 1908 Office and Laboratory Building on the south side of Ellis Island. (Photo by Larry Racioppo.)

The recently stabilized Doctor's Quarters on the south side of Ellis Island.

A detail of the terminal on the 1936 Ferry Building.

Ellis Island, one of the Conservancy’s most significant advocacy campaigns, celebrated an important milestone on April 2, 2007.

A ceremony commemorated the opening of the rehabilitated Ferry Building. It sits at the head of the ferry slip that bisects the island and serves as the pedestrian gateway to the south side. The Works Project Administration built the Ferry Building in1936.

The event was conceived and organized by Save Ellis Island!, Inc., the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service that the Conservancy helped found.

Conservancy’s Leadership

For more than a decade, the Conservancy has been instrumental in leading efforts to preserve and restore the thirty vacant buildings on the south side of Ellis Island. They were abandoned when the immigration station closed over 50 years ago.

In the mid 90s, the Conservancy secured endangerment listings by the World Monuments Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We created traveling photo exhibits co-sponsored by the National Building Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, and the state Museum of New Jersey.

In 1997, Conservancy staff worked side-by-side with expert contractors to demonstrate stabilization techniques on one building, which the National Park Service used as a model for future preservation efforts. Our videotape appeal featured this project and spurred the U.S. Congress and the State of New Jersey to make a series of appropriations totaling over $8 million that have funded stabilization of all south side structures.

The Conservancy helped found Save Ellis Island!, Inc., in 2001. The nonprofit has been dedicated to raising the funds necessary to see all thirty vacant buildings on Ellis Island restored and appropriately reused. Conservancy president Peg Breen serves on the Board of this organization.

Successful Stabilization

By June 2006, all 29 of the unrestored former hospital buildings on Ellis Island were stabilized — more than a decade after we embarked on this vigorous national campaign.

The recently opened Ferry Building has been thoughtfully restored. The renewed interiors will feature exhibits introducing visitors to the south side. The first, “Future in the Balance: Immigrants, Public Health and Ellis Island’s Hospitals,” is currently on view.

The Conservancy is proud to see that this symbol of our country’s immigrant heritage — and one of our organization’s most dedicated campaigns — is saved for generations to come.



Watch our Ellis Island video below.

Tourist In Your Own Town – The South Side of Ellis Island from New York Landmarks Conservancy on Vimeo.