View of Recreation Building from east - Ellis Island, 2010Reproduction Number: HABS NY-6086-V-1
The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) describes the New Deal’s extensive work on Ellis Island, which included building this recreation building:
“The Recreation Building at the Ellis Island U.S. Immigration Station was designed and built between 1933 and 1937 as part of a series of projects made possible through New Deal public works funding. 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. The Recreation Building was designed for Ellis Island by consulting architect Chester Aldrich and the Public Buildings Service, along with the New Immigration Building (1934-1936), Ferry Building (1934), and two Recreation Shelters (1936-37). 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. The Recreation Building was intended to contribute to the physical and mental convalescence of patients at the hospital and to the routines of the island’s numerous employees. It was placed, with a Recreation Shelter, at the west end of the central hospital court recently created by filling the lagoon between Islands 2 and 3… The Ellis Island U.S. 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 U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service.”
Ellis Island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965. The recreation building 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.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, Ellis Island, Recreation Building 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
We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.SUBMIT MORE INFORMATION OR PHOTOGRAPHS FOR THIS SITE