Ellis Island-- When you hear that name what does it make you think? Millions of immigrants flooding into our country? That's what it has always made me think. But the immigration center was just a part of the history of Ellis Island. Let me share with you some interesting facts that goes beyond the immigration center.
It didn't take long with the flood of immigrants coming into the country to realize checks and balances were needed. They couldn't bring in sick people and expose the United States population to possible epidemics of tuberculosis, typhus, cholera, or trachoma (contagious bacterial infection of the eye). Before the time of antibiotics, all these diseases could be devastating if they hit the vast population.
|Original building before fire of 1897
By unidentified photographer - Personal image of old stereo photograph, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14686136
It was in September of 1892, the year Ellis Island opened for immigration that a ship arrived in port with several cases of cholera. The Island had no hospital. Every ship then was put in quarantine to check for disease before allowing to proceed to land. The passengers found to have contagious diseases were then taken off ships at quarantine and transferred to one of two hospitals on either Hoffman or Swinburne Island.
When the original immigration building burnt down they immediately made plans to rebuild, but they added a hospital and surgeons house to the plans.
|New immigration center built after the fire.
By A. Coeffler - Library of Congress via the American Heritage website; description, high resolution image., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5085440
Because of the belief that diseases could not cross a body of water, they chose to put the hospital across a body of water--but they had no close neighboring island.
Remember this was still in horse and buggy day! I found this particularly interesting. They needed more buildings but the small three acre Island wouldn't hold what they needed so they built an island. To create the land they needed, they drove wooden pillars down into the ground beneath the water, putting them tightly together. When they had formed their rectangular outline with tight wooden beams, they pumped the water out of the center. Then they used the debris acquired from digging the subway to fill the massive hole and make the Island.
Two Islands were eventually built to fill the growing needs. The first new Island housed the hospital administration and contagious diseases ward. The second new Island housed the psychiatric ward. With the edition of islands, Ellis Island grew from 3 acres to 27 acres.
During the first World War immigration dropped drastically. In 1917 the island was used as a hospital for the United States Army. The Navy used it for a way station and also a detention center for enemy aliens. Just a year later the Army takes over most of the island and makes a way station to treat sick and wounded American servicemen.
If you'd like to read more about Ellis Island and more interesting facts and famous people who came through the Island you can read another post I wrote here.
Do you have any family members that came through Ellis Island? Have you done any research into your family genealogy? Was you surprised that two of the islands were man-made back in the late 1800's.
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Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 5 horses, 3 dogs, cat and miniature donkey.
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