Repair and Stabilize Ellis Island’s Seawall Project

Ellis Island Ferry Slip Facing Southwest
Ellis Island ferry slip after construction as seen at low tide, Fall 2023.

NPS photo

Project description:

Through this project, completed in Fall 2023, we repaired and stabilized approximately 6,000 feet of seawall that surrounds and protects Ellis Island. The work involved major repairs to the granite and concrete that comprise the walls. In addition to these repairs, the project also added reinforcement on the land and water sides of portions of the island to further stabilize and strengthen the wall. Lastly, the project replaced the timber pile fender system and made additional repairs to the ferry slips.

Ferry slip with red brick buildings on an island in the background
Ellis Island ferry slip before construction as seen at low tide. Displaced or missing courses of granite are visible as a result of wave action.

NPS photo 2020

Why did we undertake this project?

Much of the seawall around Ellis Island is now more than 100 years old. A century of pressure from waves, as well as storms in New York Harbor, had damaged and destabilized the concrete and granite masonry. Most of Ellis Island was created by landfill and is not a natural land feature--the seawall is needed to hold the island together.

Prior to completion, as you took the ferry to and from Ellis Island, you may have noticed many places where the granite blocks that make up the face of the wall were displaced, or even fallen out of the wall entirely. In addition to this obvious damage, there were less visible concerns, including cracks and voids in the concrete that allowed soil from Ellis Island to wash out into the harbor, undermining the land of the island itself.

While the walls were not in danger of immediate collapse, these structural problems had accumulated and compounded over the decades. This project was a large-scale effort to repair all these issues at one time and restore Ellis Island’s protective seawall into excellent condition so that it can continue to protect the island.

Historic stone seawall from the water side.
Completed section of the Ellis Island Seawall seen at low tide, 2023.

NPS photo

Last updated: January 23, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Receiving Office
1 Ellis Island

Jersey City, NJ 07305


212 363-3200

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