Monday, March 9, 2009

Ellis Island, real time travel

In June 2008 I visited the old, abandoned parts of Ellis Island's hospital. Ellis Island was the immigration center for New York and northeastern USA, and 12 million people came through here. With hardhats on we walked through old mental and infectious disease wards, corridors, the laundry rooms, the morgue, and the furnace rooms. So much is still the way it was when it was closed in mid 1900s, with doors, some furniture, and lamps, but a lot has been removed.

Many windows are broken or bordered up, but you still can get that feeling of history, how people were moved through this place to be treated for common ailments, give birth, or, if they weren't 'fit enough for the new world', then deported back to their old country. I don't know if any of my relatives came through Ellis Island, but it is possible. If we knew their names, we could look it up.

It was the best public hospital of its kind in America, and all free. Many doctors requested to do their training here because you got to see so many kinds of problems and learn cutting-edge treatments. We saw padded rooms for mental patients, an infectious disease ward with washable subway-tile walls, and the demonstration room in the morgue where they could to autopsies. Amazing enough, very few people died on Ellis Island, our guide told us, but in Wikipedia, the truth about everything, it says about 3000. More people died on the way over. Many children were born on Ellis Island , and most people that were sick were treated and then released to go on and live in America. If those walls could talk, imagine what stories they could tell!

PP and I finished watching the movie Golden Door tonight, about an Italian family leaving Sicily, traveling across the ocean and arriving at Ellis Island. It probably gives a rather realistic portrait of how life could have been. The movie is definitely worth watching, but it is slow. But the slowness creates a special feeling, and the filming and music is great.

I have posted my Ellis Island photos on Flickr, in this album: link.

Crazy fact: "Although Ellis Island is federal property and has always been historically considered in New York, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1998 determined that part of the island was territory of New York while most of the island, which was added after 1834, is within the territory of New Jersey."

1 comment:

EH said...

Fantastic blog post LS! I love the history behind this place and your photos are so telling of times in the past. It almost feels like time stand still in this place.

I think I can look up the names of our relatives that might have passed through Ellis Island. I come back about that.