The Journal News from White Plains, New York on May 25, 1986 · Page 95
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The Journal News from White Plains, New York · Page 95

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Location:
White Plains, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 25, 1986
Page:
Page 95
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SUNDAY, MAY 25, 1986 1 M II V Inside V Ann landers F2 Movie Clock F6 Bridge F2 On the Seene F3 Calendar F4 Travel Gl-10 Penguin Rep to renovate The Stony Point-based Penguin. Repertory Company, Rockland's only troupe at the moment operating under the wings of an Actor's Equity Small Professional Theater contract, is about to begin a major renovation to its Barn Playhouse on Crickettown Road. When completed this summer, the renovation will allow the company to operate on a year-round Penguin! i ,, I i I - Ip if The Barn Playhouse basis, according to Fran Newman, a co-founder and trustee. "Having the ability to stage productions throughout the year gives tremendous flexibility to the company in terms of the type of works we can plan and when we'd like to produce them," Newman said. The renovation will delay the company's traditional spring opening until mid-August. Much of the renovation effort focuses the Barn Playhouse's climate control system. "We're adding heating and air conditioning which will allow our audiences to sit comfortably on the steamiest, summer evenings and the coldest winter nights," Newman said. Ren-! ovation plans also call for an ex-; tension of the south side of the building to create a new entrance . and adding new wheelchair accessible lavatories. An important factor in the renovation is maintaining the basic ambience of the playhouse, a con-verted 1880s hay barn. It has been at this historic site, which is owned by the United Presbyterian Church, that Penguin Rep has been staging its productions for the past nine years. REFURBISHING THE AMERICAN DREAM 1 ' 1 If ' I r"1 "Q" 1 ( - V -v i V is' "s. - it V , . J I " J v. .... - The baggage room on the first floor of the main building, where immigrants registered upon their arrival in the New World. They then went up a flight of stairs to the Great Hall. GonntMKathy Kmonk.k An immigrant past, a tattered present By PHIL WAGA Staff Writer espite the intrusion of modern-day work crews, the past still rules this former gateway to America with an inextricable, almost haunting grip. Only slow, painstaking restoration by 100 craftsmen is taking place on this windswept island. The project, still in its very early stages, focuses only on a fraction of the 33 interconnected, red-brick and limestone-trimmed buildings. No plan has yet even been devised for when, and if, to tackle the bulk of the 27-acre island. Aside from layer upon layer of dirt and dust, everything here still stands virtually as it did from 1918 to 1924. when more than 16 million immigrants took their first steps onto American soil at Ellis Island. The large iron radiators that the newcomers from more than 90 countries huddled around dot the cavernous baggage room, the first shelter in the New World. The flight of 37 black marble steps that the immigrants climbed for their dreaded physicals in the Great Hall bear imprints from millions of footsteps. Even the morgue, with its eight empty human-size drawers and overhead stark light for autopsies, looks like it was used only days ago. After 15 months of working on the island, John Sanchez says one sensation continues to overwhelm him: "I always feel that these millions of people who came through here are still walking beside me." Sanchez, a Yonkers resident, is not easily impressed or intimidated. A grizzled veteran of scores of projects, he has been in construction for 14 years. This work, however, is very different, he said, as he worked to renovate a crumbling wall in the Great Hall, the heart of Ellis Island. On a nearby wall was a bit of graffiti from an immigrant. Inscribed with pencil in the early 1900s, it was a drawing of a man dragging a suitcase and carrying an American flag. "1 don't believe in ghosts or anything stupid like that, but this place is really creepy," Sanchez, 38, said. "You just can't help but feel an incredibly strong presence of people in here." There is talk of ghosts a "Woman in Red" in particular who unhappily prowl the island because they were afflicted with contagious diseases and ordered back to their homeland. The Woman in Red was said to have worn a red dress throughout her unsuccessful efforts to convince immigration officials that she should not be deported; she wore the red dress I when she boarded a steamship to take her back home A washing machine in the laundry room on the south end of the island. Amelia McCottry and Pam Harvey, two National Park Service Rangers guarding the island, dismiss the ghost stories, saying they've heard them but have never seen the slightest apparition. They point out, however, that there is certainly an overpowering feeling on the island because it's so quiet and abandoned, and so little has been changed since the last immigrants left. As they talked, they patrolled the island's hospital wards. Along one wall stood a large, iron mattress-cleaning device that had been used to disinfect bedding used by the ailing. "All of us have this feeling of not being alone," Ms. McCottry said. "It's nothing that I'm afraid of, but I always feel that I'm being watched." Ms. Harvey added: "You walk around here long enough and you feel like you're one of the immigrants and you're waiting for your name and number to be called." In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, l'i miles southwest of the tip of Manhattan, Ellis Island is in the preliminary phase of a $113 million restoration project that will turn parts of it into a shrine to immigration. The project to renovate the docks that greeted travelers, as well as the massive main building and three adjacent buildings on the north section of the island began a little over a year ago. The work is progressing on schedule after miles of weeds, waist-high tons of debris and cat-sized rats were cleared from the buildings and should be completed in 1988, according to Michael Adlerstein, Ellis Island project manager for the National Park Service. The buildings would then be opened to the public, with 1.4 million visitors expected a year. The fate of the sprawling southern, hospital end of the island 29 buildings on more than 20 acres of land is a mystery, as well as a controversy. A dispute over the future of the southern section peaked in February when U.S. Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel removed Chrysler Chairman Lee A. Iacocca as head of a federal advisory commission on the restorations. Hodel argued that because Iacocca headed the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which raises money for the restorations, he should Please see ELLIS on page F5 r . : . : " , . 11,1 1 u " i I i ;( ,r r M 1 ; k 1 IT"'".- : tf vj'- ' ' ! I - I tit . $ . ..n - , -j ' ; 1 "- - - - : " '-kaNEW'yoRK i - - - - ' : . if ' "' '"' '- ' : V. . . ,a i.i, . .-..,..- 4 , !.. ... . . . o ..... - -- " - - 1 A sign that pointed the way to New York for immigrants still reads clearly in one of the hallways.

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