The Other Side
How Many Buildings Are There« Back to Blog
Posted on February 15, 2015 at 3:11 pm
The hospital complex on Ellis Island was the first large-scale public health facility of its kind in America. It included quarantine, psychopathic and infectious disease wards. Considered to be one of the few remaining low rise pavilion-style public hospitals in our nation, Ellis Island’s 750-bed hospital complex was the beginning of the public health system in America as we know it today.
Built between 1900 and 1909, new medical theories and practices, such as germ theory and sterilization, were embraced and perfected at Ellis Island. If you visit the hospital on one of the Hard Hat Tours, and you are standing in the autopsy theater in the Contagious Disease Hospital, you will learn that this once grand hospital was a teaching hospital, one of the finest in the United States in the early 19th century.
When standing on the north side of Ellis Island in front of the Immigration Museum looking across the ferry slip to the south, the hospital appears to be one long and large building. But actually, it consists of several buildings all connected by enclosed corridors.
The map above shows the landscape of the buildings. To the East is the General Hospital, to the West is the Contagious Disease Hospital and to the North you’ll see the corridor connecting both. Those who work on the preservation of the hospital, lovingly call the long corridor connecting both hospitals, the “spine.” The Recreation Building is in the center.
Nestled in the right corner of the “Spine” and the General Hospital is the Laundry Building, originally know as the Hospital Outbuilding. This may be one of the most important buildings on the property. Constructed between 1901 and 1909 its primary uses were a laundry room, a disinfecting room, a boiler room and an autopsy room and morgue. Over three thousand pieces of laundry were washed there daily.
The Laundry Building is the first stop on Save Ellis Island’s Hard Hat Tour and one of the few buildings with artifacts left from a time when the building was in operation. There is one other thing that remains…we’re not sure what that is in the photos. We would like to hear what you think it might be. Tweet us using the #EllisIslandGhosts?
James Knox Taylor, Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, 1890-1912, designed the Hospital Outbuilding in 1899. The original Hospital Outbuilding is a one and one half story brick structure, with a wood framed and clay tile roof with ten dormers. Interior construction consisted of terra cotta block walls with plaster finish on the first floor and wood framing, metal lath and plaster finish on the second floor. At some point prior to 1932, a small freestanding linen exchange was demolished and replaced with a one story brick addition to the west of the original building. Originally known as the Linen Exchange but now called the Laundry Building, it provides an interior connection between the Hospital Outbuilding and the covered corridor (the“spine”).
The Laundry/Hospital Outbuilding is significant architecturally by itself. Constructed of red brick with projecting quoins and limestone trim, the hospital outbuilding was designed to echo elements of the main hospital building and the main immigration building, now the Immigration Museum. It is also significant as part of the first major integrated hospital of the twentieth century, and for its role in the early years of the Public Health Service.
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