New York Travel: Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital Hard Hat Tour

Updated: Apr 1, 2019

My daughter Emily is an art lover. She enjoys finding the beautiful in the ugly, disadvantaged and derelict. She is also very interested in Medical Art. This was her impetus for a recent trip to New York City and the Ellis Island Immigration Hospital.

Ellis Island is in Upper New York Harbour and has been part of the Statue of Liberty monument since 1965. For 60 years, 12 million immigrants passed through this island on their way to becoming United States citizens. To medically treat the incoming, the government opened the hospital in 1902. The hospital had two wards; one a general hospital and a separate pavilion for contagious disease. For a time, it even had mental health facilities.

The hospital was once one of the largest public health facilities in the country. It closed operations in 1930, and the buildings neglected since. The 'Save Ellis Island' fund provides limited hard hat tours. This helps raise money for refurbishment of the building and its grounds.


JR is a French graffiti artist who fly posts his large photos onto public spaces. He worked with the Save Ellis Island project, installing enlarged original photographs. Images of immigrants, doctors and nurses garnish the crumbling walls of the hospital. The result is an ethereal experience. It reminds of us that these were real people who chose to uproot themselves from their homes to seek out a better future. A better future they hoped awaited them in the USA. Their dreams built a nation.

JR implanted the faces of 19 Syrian refugees onto the original images. That this deception goes unnoticed should be cause for alarm. That human beings in crisis are interchangeable in the eyes of those who are not should worry us all.

For Ellis Island Immigration Hard Hat Tour information:

For further reading:

Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom by Stephen Wilkes

For more images:

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About Us


Fearing the empty nest? Don't! Since my children have flown the coup, I have had time to refocus on my passions of travel, art, and writing.  This little blog is a handy tool that helps me share what I have learned with others.


I grew up in the States, but have lived a large chunk of my adult life in the UK. I now split my time between London and South Africa as well as chasing the sun around the world. 


 When my nest emptied, I began to plan my trips according to my own schedule, indulging in going solo. Once one gets used to traveling solo, it can be a very freeing experience. I seek out interesting, informative and unique experiences, and proffer advice with my network of readers.  I also have a lot of fun!


 Spa retreats and personal growth travel are core to what I do.  If there was a master's degree in the art of booking massages, I would be a scholarship student! I also plan to conquer Europe one city break at a time and with all that effort, I need as many beach holidays as possible. 


So please enjoy reading my tales of travel. I hope you are encouraged to get on that plane and perhaps have a few giggles along the way.


When my large family was quite young, we lived in several international postings. In an age before Google Translate,  I negotiated the grocery stores of foreign countries in search of tasty ingredients. I soon became an expert at discerning information from food labels and also learned to cook healthy, quick meals from local sources. 


From this experience, I became quite the foodie, even before 'foodie' was a word. And now as an empty-nester and devotee of food travel networks, I  interpret those old recipes into smaller, even tastier versions. 


Being an editor and food/wine travel columnist,  I travel the world sampling indigenous recipes which I share on Old Bag on a Plane. I also love wine!


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