Who We Are

Following the Supreme Court decision to award sovereignty of 24 acres of Ellis Island to New Jersey, then Governor Christine Todd Whitman created a panel to consider the island’s future.

Governor Whitman signed an Executive Order creating a 13 member advisory commission charged with investigating the future use, maintenance and repair of the buildings that were now considered to be on the New Jersey portion of Ellis Island.

Aerial view facing north, 2005

From this 13 member panel, Save Ellis Island was formed to raise the necessary funds and oversee the rehabilitation, preservation and adaptive re-use of the unrestored buildings located primarily on the south side of Ellis Island.

The Save Ellis Island Foundation is the designated partner by general agreement of the National Park Service (NPS), one of the nation’s most trusted and dependable organizations in preserving our historic and cultural landmarks.

The American story

Our goal is not to simply preserve buildings – although that is part of the foundation’s mission. Our goal is to assure that the values, concepts, discoveries and stories of Ellis Island are reinvigorated and their contributions promoted throughout the country. The story of Ellis Island is the story of America. The Save Ellis Island Foundation will give voice to that story both on the island and throughout America.

As a partner of the NPS we have the unique opportunity to complete the rescue of a place and its buildings in an attempt to shed new light on the central part of the American story. SEI has brought together preservationists, historians, civic leaders and thousands of average Americans from across the country who share the same goals to honor and celebrate a key part of America’s heritage; rediscover and promote American ideals and build a living institution that will apply the lessons of Ellis Island to future generations.

Save Ellis Island’s mission is to preserve the historic hospital buildings on Ellis Island

Building upon the heroic work of restoring the north side, SEI assisted the NPS with the stabilization of the remaining twenty nine buildings and completely rehabilitated the Ferry Terminal Building, from which so many immigrants departed to begin their new lives. Following the rehabilitation of the Ferry Terminal Building, SEI began the rehabilitation of the Hospital Laundry Outbuilding and corridors connecting the buildings.

A national treasure

Save Ellis Island is committed to preserving the national treasure that is Ellis Island and establishing innovative education programs that celebrate the spirit of immigrants everywhere – not just those who immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island.

Ellis Island - mission of organization - History of the Island

Education programs

Save Ellis Island has developed and implemented education programs for learners of all ages. In partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and many other prestigious institutions. SEI’s teacher professional development workshops about diversity and other immigrant related concepts that are both historical and highly relevant today have benefitted over 200,000 children throughout the United States.


From 1892 to 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered USA through the portal of Ellis Island in New York Harbor

We are part of America's story

Ellis Island tells the story of the journey of millions of men, women and children from around the world who sought a new future on these shores.

Walking around these buildings we're not just talking about history-visitors are able to touch, feel, and understand in a way that connects them to the past. As we rebuild parts of Ellis Island, we are rebuilding its legacy and revitalizing living landmarks to a world gone by. Save Ellis Island is working to create a destination that echoes the beacon of hope that it once was for nearly twelve million immigrants and continues to be for the nearly two million visitors each year.

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Our Supporters

The Save Ellis Island website is made possible by a generous donation from Heidi Liebi Root in memory of her father Fred Liebi