Ellis Island's Ferry Building Opens

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In addition to early Save America's Treasures grants, Save Ellis Island recently received a $100,000 grant through the National Trust's partnership with Lowe's for the Ferry Building's restoration, completed in 2007.

Credit: Kevin Daley, National Park Service

Closed for more than half a century, a 73-year-old building on Ellis Island's long-abandoned south side opened to the public yesterday after a seven-year restoration.

Twelve million immigrants passed through the art deco Ferry Building, built in 1934 by the Public Works Administration before the Ellis Island Immigration Station shut down in 1954. Now, after a $6.4 million project funded by a 1999 Save America's Treasures matching grant of $1,145,975, the restored Ferry Building is a museum.

"We won’t just be opening the building; we will be premiering the exhibit, which focuses on the hospital and the larger Ellis Island stories," says Judy McAlpin, president of the nonprofit Save Ellis Island.

The Ferry Building is located on the part of Ellis Island that is owned by New Jersey, which also helped fund the restoration. Two-thirds of the immigrants who passed through Ellis Island took ferries to New Jersey from the Ferry Building, and the rest went to Manhattan.

While the Ferry Building restoration has been under way, workers have stabilized the other 30 remote buildings on the south side. "We'll be able to give safe access out there by the end of next year," says Judy McAlpin, president of the nonprofit Save Ellis Island.

The island's neglected south side buildings will likely become a conference center, McAlpin says. Last month, the Park Service, under new Superintendant Cynthia Garrett, released its "development concept plan" for the south side.

This spring, work is being completed on a pedestrian passageway, which links the Ferry Building to the Laundry and Hospital Outbuilding, another Save America's Treasures project, which will reopen next year after a rehabilitation.

"The change in [National Park Service] leadership has breathed new life and enthusiasm for a project that has languished for so long," McAlpin says. "The important part is that it's on its way." 

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