Constructed circa 1931, the ferry building at Ellis Island received immigrants debarking from boats where they were directed either to the south side where they would be treated for illness or disease, or to the north side where they would begin the immigration process. This is the first of the buildings on the portion of Ellis Island under New Jersey sovereignty to be restored and opened to the public; it physically links the current Immigration Museum to the unrestored buildings on Ellis Island’s South Side. The renovation project included an exhibit that explains the history of the South Side Hospital Complex and the role the activities undertaken in these buildings played in the immigrant arrival experience and in public health, beginning in the late 19th century through the closing of Ellis Island in 1954.
The building had been vacant for fifty years when the funding for the project became available. Harbor front weather and tidal action had caused extensive damage to the building envelope and underlying structure. The restoration work included structural repairs to concrete floor and roof slabs, brick bearing wall repairs, and steel lintel repairs. Modifications included new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that required the insertion of a new steel framed mechanical mezzanine.