Ellis Island Virtual Tour

Ellis Island is an interlocking series of three mostly man-made islands in New York Harbor. It was home to the preeminent U.S. Immigration Station from 1892 to 1954. The original natural island was expanded to become Island 1, which holds the Main Immigration Building and was the primary site of immigration inspection and processing. After a fire destroyed the original wood buildings in 1897, Ellis Island was expanded and improved by a series of landfill and building projects, including the addition of Islands 2 and 3. Originally the three islands were only connected via a narrow strip of land or a wood gangway on the northwest, with basins for ferry docking separating the Immigration Station and the hospital complexes.

The Immigration Act of 1891, in addition to federalizing immigration control and creating Ellis Island and the other U.S. Immigration Stations, included a provision for medical examination of arriving immigrants. After their creation in the first decade of the 20th century, Islands 2 and 3 housed U.S. Public Health Service hospitals. The U.S. Public Health Service conducted medical inspections from 1901 until 1951, using the main hospital for general medical care and a second for contagious diseases.

Project Information

Today visitors to Ellis Island Immigration Museum can enjoy the grand spaces of the restored Main Immigration Building, but access to a large portion of the island housing the two unrestored hospital complexes is much more limited. Since 2009, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) of Heritage Documentation Programs (HDP) has been working on a multi-phase project documenting the Ellis Island hospitals and associated buildings with measured drawings, historical reports, and large format photographs. The 2014 phase included HDR panoramic photos to create a virtual tour of Ellis Island's restricted areas, as well as using a high-definition laser scanner, hand-drawn field notes, and hand-measuring to obtain information needed to produce updated measured drawings of the hospital. The virtual tour was developed by HDP architect Paul Davidson, with assistance from HDP historian Lisa Pfueller Davidson, and HDP architect Daniel De Sousa.

Last updated: November 15, 2021