Ellis Island: Recreation Shelter – New York NY


The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) describes the New Deal’s extensive work on Ellis Island, which included building this recreation shelter:

“The Recreation Shelter on Islands 2 and 3 was part of the last active phase of construction at the Ellis Island U.S. Immigration Station during the 1930s. The Recreation Building and two Recreation Shelters were designed for Ellis Island alongside the New Immigration Building (1934-1936) and Ferry Building (1934), all of which were financed through New Deal funding. The construction of these new facilities contributed to a reconfiguration of the island into clearly demarcated spaces for patients, immigrants and deportees, a shift that recognized the changing dynamics of immigration in the United States during the years of the Great Depression. This concern for the physical and mental well-being of the island’s temporary inhabitants was tied to larger national and international concerns about public health and social services. In 1933 the federally-appointed Ellis Island Committee completed a report that recommended widespread improvements to the Immigration facilities, among which was the development of adequate accommodations for recreation. Plans were initiated to make the new space created by filling in the lagoon between Islands 2 and 3 into an open-air recreation area, and to build a Recreation Building and Recreation Shelter at its west end. The Recreation Building and Recreation Shelters (a nearly identical structure on Island 1 was used by deportees) were constructed simultaneously in large part because of a new recognition of the need to accommodate patient, inmate, and immigrant leisure on the three-island complex. During World War II, the building was used by the United States Coast Guard, which also made use of the facilities from 1951 to 1954, after the United States Public Health Service vacated on March 1, 1951. The Ellis Island United States Immigration Station ceased operation on November 12, 1954 and the complex was largely unoccupied until it was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965, under the administration of the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service.”

Ellis Island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965. The recreation shelter is still standing, but HABS photos from 2010 displayed here show it to be in disrepair, just like “nearly 30” other buildings on Ellis Island (nps.gov). These notes do not specify what New Deal agencies were involved, but Short and Brown’s 1939 book on PWA accomplishments states that the PWA allotment used for the ferry building “included also a building for incoming immigrants and the remodeling of other structures,” and other HABS documents cite the WPA’s work on other structures on the island.

Source notes

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, Ellis Island, Recreation Shelter
C.W. Short and R. Stanley-Brown. "Public Buildings: A Survey of Architecture of Projects Constructed by Federal and Other Governmental Bodies Between the Years 1933 and 1939 with the Assistance of the Public Works Administration." (1939).
Historic Ellis Island structure reopening - USA Today

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Location Info

Ellis Island
New York, NY

Location notes:

Coordinates: 40.698446, -74.04237

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