Statue of Liberty Natl Mon/Ellis Island Immigration Museum
An Adventure in Stabilization
The 29 buildings on the south side of Ellis Island comprise one of the largest hospitals to be built in the United States during the first decades of this [20th] century. With more than a quarter million square feet of enclosed space, the buildings and connecting corridors are a significant and unified architectural development. Once the island was vacated in 1954, maintenance of the buildings and grounds effectively ceased. After over forty years of abandonment, they have reached a critical and accelerating state of deterioration. Luckily, the historic structures on the south side of Ellis Island have not been lost.
The principle objective of the stabilization process as it relates to the preservation of historic buildings is to correct deficiencies that will slow down deterioration while the structures remain vacant. For the historic structures on Ellis Island this consisted of:
1. ? ? Vegetation Management:
to document historic plants and remove overgrown non-historic vegetation that posed a threat to the structures.
2. ? ? Structural Repairs:
to reestablish a weather resistant enclosure and to reinforce weakened structural members.
3. ? ? Selective Dismantling:
to remove two exterior porch structures that were in a severely deteriorated condition.
4. ? ? Hazardous Materials Abatement:
to remove paint chips, asbestos and pigeon guano from the interiors of the structures.
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After careful analysis and mapping of historic vegetation, non-historic plants are cleared to provide access to structures and eliminate trees causing physical damage to the structures.
Skilled arborists using special rigging techniques carefully remove tree limbs and/or entire trees leaning over roofs where they caused extensive damage.
Keeping out the Elements
Numerous entry points for rain, wind and salt spray accelerate deterioration of the structures. The stabilization process therefore, seeks to seal up all these openings to keep out the elements.
Broken windows and doors are replaced with enclosures that provide necessary air circulation to the inside of the structures yet keep out water.
Likewise skylights and roofs are repaired to prevent damaging water infiltration.
In an attempt to prevent irreversible damage to two of the structures the dismantling of two severely deteriorated exterior porches was necessary. The condition of the porches was beyond repair and deterioration was proceeding at such an accelerated rate that their collapse was inevitable.
Had the porches collapsed they would have destroyed the facades of the two structures to which they were attached. The porches will be reconstructed when the buildings are eventually rehabilitated.
Hazardous Materials Abatement
Asbestos containing pipe wrap, chipping lead paint and pigeon guano are the most prevalent forms of hazardous materials requiring removal from the structures. In addition, removal of years of debris, fallen plaster, dust and dirt form the bulk of the interior work during the stabilization project.
The stabilized buildings can remain in a "mothballed" state for up to 15 years. Within the next few years plans for rehabilitation and adapted reuse of the structures will be developed to bring life back into the buildings.