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Damp Torch
Liberty and Ellis Islands' pavilions hang in watery limbo.
juan_m / Flickr

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, construction of a new glass-and-metal canopy attached to the Main Building at Ellis Island is on indefinite hold, reports Bradford Hill, president of Evelyn Hill, a family-owned business that has operated concessions with the National Park Service (NPS) since 1931. Both Ellis and Liberty islands remain closed.

As part of his successful bid to renew his concessions with the NPS, Hill commissioned the Manhattan-based architecture firm Acheson Doyle Partners (ADP) to design several projects to improve the visitor experience at both islands. The proposed canopy, the third project to be built, was intended to create a weather-protected seating area directly accessible from the Ellis Café, Hill’s concession.

The design included a sliding glass-and-metal-folding wall system imposing minimal impact to the historic Main Building and already had been approved by both the NPS and the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

Ellis Island.
Courtesy Acheson Doyle Partners

The firm also redesigned the Ellis Café and the adjacent dining room in the Main Building on Ellis Island. As these interior spaces were not historic, design plans did not require SHPO approval; however, according to the architect Matthew Barhydt, the firm and client wanted to “provide a setting that was more in keeping with the historical nature of the building.” So, in the dining room, they recreated a number of Edward Laning panels from the artist’s mural The Role of the Immigrant in the Industrial Development of America, a WPA federal art project that once hung in the original dining hall of the Main Building (salvaged portions of the mural now hang in the federal building in Brooklyn). The dining room was completed in early 2010; the café was completed in the summer of 2012.

Plan for protected seating on Ellis Island.
Courtesy Acheson Doyle Partners

ADP also worked with the concessionaire Hill on Liberty Island, home of the Statute of Liberty, to construct the new Liberty Gift Pavilion, a 7,000-square-foot pavilion located less than 100 yards from the passenger ferry landing. This building is LEED Platinum Certified and composed of recycled materials; features include energy-efficient LED lighting, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and rainwater recycling. Despite the fact that 75 percent of Liberty Island was underwater during the October storm, damage to the concession was limited, in part because the building sits on raised steel piles; however, property losses for inventory and equipment stored in the basement totaled over $1 million.

Liberty Island is scheduled to reopen on July 4th, but NPS has no estimated date for the reopening of Ellis Island. According to Linda Friar, NPS acting chief of public affairs for the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, the agency has “only recently had funding authorized and is working through prioritization of the many projects that need to be completed to reopen to the public.”

Liz McEnaney