From the Pale to the Golden Land
Ellis Island: Port of Immigration

Home       l       Site Map      l      Exhibitions      l     About the Museum       l      Education      l     Contact Us       l      Links

A Rooftop Playground for the Children
as reported by the New-York Daily Tribune

Immigrant Children on the Roof Playground at Ellis Island.

Below is an article that appeared in the Illustrated Supplement of the "New-York Tribune" on Aug. 28, 1904:


Place for Immigrant Children to Play to Their Hearts' Content.


Washington, Aug. 25. -- There is, perhaps, no branch of the government service where greater improvements have been effected in the administration of President Roosevelt than in the immigration service, although so quiet have been the methods pursued and so unostentatious the direction of the service that comparatively few persons are aware of the improvements accomplished.

To speak of Ellis Island is almost to include the whole immigration service, so far as the landing of immigrants is concerned, for at that point close to 75 per cent of the newcomers to the United States are inspected and pass muster. Lat year out of a total of 875,046 immigrants admitted to this country, 631,885 landed at Ellis Island. Without going into tiresome details regarding the improvements in the administration of this important function of the government, it may be said that never before were the laws so conscientiously and thoroughly enforced and yet never before was the comfort of the immigrants so carefully considered or their welfare so effectively provided for.

Immigrant Buildings on Ellis Island. Children's playground is on the top of the left wing.

Children's playground is on the top of the left wing.

It was little more than two years ago that Frank P. Sargent was appointed Commissioner General of Immigration, and only a few months before that Commissioner Williams was placed in full charge of the Ellis Island station. In the interim the entire appearance of the island has changed, and many inexpensive, but not the less effective, devices have been installed, all of which make for the comfort and the health of the future citizens of the United States.

When Commissioner Williams took charge of the station, Ellis Island presented a most unattractive appearance. There were ample and excellent buildings, it is true, but utility only had been considered, and orderliness and attractiveness, now so noticeable, were conspicuous only by their absence. Mr. Williams, with the hearty encouragement and cooperation of the Commissioner General, has worked wonderful changes, and today the exterior of the station is as attractive as a well kept country place, while the interior is characterized by a cleanliness and neatness formerly believed impossible of attainment.

To Commissioner General Sargent belongs the credit of one of the latest and most attractive features introduced on the island--the children's playground. Thousands of children are domiciled at Ellis Island for weeks, sometimes for months at a time. Arriving after a week or more or confinement in the fetid atmosphere of the steerage, they are usually pale and listless, an when as often occurs, their parents are necessarily detained for some time in the station hospital, their lot is not a happy one, or rather, it formerly was not. Moved by pity for these little ones, Commissioner Sargent sought a remedy for their condition. The grounds did not furnish an appropriate place for a playground, but diligent examination revealed an ideal place on the large, flat roof of the main building. There, by the erection of awnings and the raising of the parapet, the children could play to their heart's content.  There they could enjoy the sea breezes of New York Harbor, precisely the sort of tonic needed after their passage. There they could run and romp and laugh and shout without disturbing any one or doing injury to themselves or their surroundings. Commissioner Sargent's suggestion was joyfully received by Commissioner Williams, and the result is an amply equipped play place, where the future young Americans recover from the effects of their voyage and learn their first lessons in liberty.

One of the long needed improvements recently provided for by Congress at Commissioner Sargent's earnest solicitation is the new ferryboat, which went into commission on July 1, taking the place of the old Carlisle, and Mr. Sargent hopes before long to get a new "boarding boat" to take the place of the Chamberlain, now in use. A new dining room has been recently added at the station. It is constructed on the most approved plans, with tiled floors and every appurtenance which can conduce to convenience and cleanliness, and in many instances minor improvements have been installed, all making for hygienic conditions.   next ►►






Home       |       Site Map       |      Exhibitions      |      About the Museum       |       Education      |      Contact Us       |       Links

Copyright 2008-9. Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved. 
Image Use Policy.