What Was the Ellis Island Hospital?

Bob Mayer
2 min readApr 26, 2023


Ellis Island: Courtesy National Park Service Archives. Ellis Island early 1970s.

An interesting tidbit about Ellis Island. While we believe from scenes like that in Godfather II, that the immigrant ships docked at Ellis Island, the reality is that it doesn’t have a deep-water dock. All trans-oceanic ships docked first at the piers in Manhattan where immigrants were initially screened. Those who had money/connections could sometimes bypass immigration at Ellis Island and enter the country directly. The rest were taken by ferry to Ellis Island.

While the Great Hall where the initial processing occurred is now open for tours, the south end of the island contains the Ellis Island Hospital Complex and remains off limits. It operated from 1902 to 1951.

The hospital provided two main services: treating immigrants who were ill upon arrival and treating immigrants who had conditions which prohibited immigration until they were healthy enough to be sent back.

Over 275,000 patients were treated with 4,000 fatalities and 350 babies born. It’s a large complex of 29 buildings, most connected by covered walkways.

The climactic scene of Lawyers, Guns and Money takes place at the hospital, where Will Kane takes down IRA terrorists planning a daring attack on the city.

Courtesy Wikicommons. Ellis Island Hospital and Staten Island Ferry by InSapphoWeTrust

Excerpted from: New York City Little Black Book 1: Secrets, History, and Trivia of the World’s Greatest City.

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Bob Mayer

West Point grad; Special Ops Vet; NY Times bestseller of over 80 books; for free books and over 200 free downloadable slideshows go to www.bobmayer.com