A Faithful Restoration of a National Landmark

The Museum receives more visitors on an annual basis than immigrants during its heyday

Ellis Island National Monument and Museum of Immigration

New York, New York

One of the largest restoration projects ever undertaken in the US, the Museum of Immigration interprets the immigration experience on three levels: the architectural restoration of the landmark; the design of a national museum; and the creation of a public resource for research. Finegold Alexander, together with Beyer Blinder Belle, designed the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Beaux Arts Main Building, one of the most symbolically important structures in American history.

Considerable archival and on-site photographic, historic, and archaeological research was undertaken by the design team. Based on the research, a decision was made to return the Main Building to its 1918-24 period. The most important areas, both historically and architecturally, were faithfully restored. Other spaces, primarily in the two wings, were converted for modern museum needs.

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23-acre site
Historic Preservation, Adaptive Reuse, Restoration, and Addition
Museum exhibits, theaters, oral-history center, digital genealogy center, library/reading room, restaurant and outdoor dining terrace
1990 TIME Magazine, Ten Best Designs of the Year
1990 Henry Bacon Medal, American Institute of Architects
1990 AIA Honor Award, New England Regional Council
1990 AIA Honor Award, New York State Chapter
1991 Design Achievement Award, National Endowment for the Arts
1991 Honor Award, National Trust for Historic Preservation
1991 Exports Award, Boston Society of Architects
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“When we made discoveries they [Finegold Alexander] treated them as a positive and enabled us to incorporate them into the final design … There were huge limestone decorative columns that were revealed … The team exposed them and they have become a part of the visitor experience.”
Diana Pardue, Chief, Museum Services Division, Statue of Liberty National Monument & Ellis Island

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Over time, extensive damage had occurred to the Main Building’s finishes and systems. However, the original Guastavino tile ceiling at the Great Hall emerged practically unscathed from decades of neglect.

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