Recreation Pavilion

Outdoor Recreation Pavilion

The elegant Beaux Arts Pavilion stands at the west end of the Ellis Island Hospital Complex on the Island's South Side. The Recreation Pavilion was part of the last active phase of construction at the Ellis Island Immigration Station during the 1930s and was financed through New Deal funding. The entire Hospital Complex is visible from there and the view of the New York and New Jersey skyline is spectacular.

When built, concern for the physical and mental well-being of the islands temporary inhabitants was tied to the larger national and international concerns about public health and social services. In 1933, the federally appointed Ellis Island Committee's report recommended widespread improvements among which was the development of adequate accommodations for recreation.

The Shelter was constructed of brick and pre cast ornamental terra cotta with a concrete ceiling with enclosed storage rooms at each end. It was used by the Public Health Service and the U. S. Coast Guard until the island closed in 1954.

After 65 years of sitting idle, the work to restore the Pavilion began in April 2019.


Lights on for the first time in 65 years


Breathing life back into historic buildings requires a team of highly skilled artisans. In this case, broken or missing bricks and ornamental terra cotta had to be matched to the originals for replication or repaired to look like new. Even the mortar is matched to ensure the look of materials used in construction at the time the building was erected.

The property was cleared and then a hazmat team came in to clean the building of contaminants and hazardous materials.

When restoring buildings, you need to know what you are dealing with prior to beginning the project.  Was the Shelter hiding some secrets? An investigative probe was conducted by removing a section of the brick wall face to allow for a visual assessment of the internal, steel support beam. The inspection revealed that the interior beams were disintegrating and would need to be replaced.” New stainless steel beams were used to replace the deteriorated beams to assure many years of life to the restored building.

The brick and terra cotta was both costly to replace and fragile, especially after years of neglect. It was tricky removing terra cotta that had been worn by weather and in some areas previously replaced. When originally repaired, some of the terra cotta had been filled with concrete making it difficult to remove. The fragile terra cotta sometimes broke in half or into many small pieces. The process to remove, repair and replace was very time consuming which added money and delays to the original cost and timeline.

When the façade was restored and the roof replaced, eight circular pivot windows were removed from the building. The windows were cleaned and repaired off site and new tempered glass was installed.  The doors, which had been badly damaged from years of rot, were also removed from the building and restored off site.

The variation and texture of the original plaster made it necessary to apply layer after layer of new plaster until it was the perfect color and texture of the original.

The goal was to restore the building to its original look and functionality at a particular time in its history. However, the building also has to function in the present and many years into the future. Electric power, internet and water lines were brought into the building along with heat. Although the original building was equipped with electricity, this is the first time it was restored in the building.

Restored Light and window

Lastly, 200 cubic feet of concrete was poured for the path in front of the building, the ground was graded, grass seed planted, historic trees trimmed, and the restoration of the historic Recreation Pavilion was completed.

Concrete Path Pour

Overseedeeded and regraded lawn 4.6 2

Ellis Island's South Side has survived weather, hurricanes and 65 years of neglect. It is the Forgotten Side of Ellis Island. Save Ellis Island is working to change that. The story of the Ellis Island Hospital Complex completes the story of immigration through Ellis Island.

Save Ellis Island would like to thank the following for their financial support in the restoration of the Ellis Island Hospital Complex:

• The NJDEP Green Acres Fund
• The Achilles and Bodman Foundation
• The Hyde and Watson Foundation
• 1772 Foundation
• Heidi Liebi in memory of her father Fred
• Save Ellis Island Members

We also thank the National Park Service for their continued partnership and support.

Total cost of this project - $982,824
Start Date - April 2019
Completion Date - December 2019
General Contractor - Phelps Construction Group


Austurian Group – Stone relocation
Deerpath Construction Corporation – Masonry
Skyline Restoration – Structural Probe
Turnpike Electric – Electric
Contemporary Plumbing & Heating – Heating Unit installation
Precision Group Services – Framing
RF Enderley Company – Painting
OLG Construction – Plaster
City Newark Glass Company – Windows and glass
Fullerton Landscape Architects – Lawns restoration and driveway installation
Polmax Corporation – Asbestos Abatement
Versico Roofing Systems – Roof Manufacturer
Advanced Roofing & Sheet Metal – Roofing installer
Spring Line Design – Structural Engineering
Gladding, McBean – Terra cotta supplier
Phillipsburg Marble Company – Driveway aggregate supplier
Diener Brick Company – Brick supplier

Help Save Ellis Island

Removing roof membrane

Terra Cotta Removal

Installing west side steel

Investigative probe


Removing east side lintel block

Repointing east side mortar joints 1

Restored Window

Summer 2020

Recreation Shelter 2020