The Lazaretto

Americas oldest quarantine station – “Ellis Island’s Great Grandfather” – helped protect Philadelphia residents for 94 years

In the summer and fall of 1793, panic reigned in Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital. Yellow fever was quickly spreading through the waterfront area of the new world’s busiest port, killing more than one out of ten residents. And no one knew how to stop it.

By October, as many as 100 people a day were dying. Before the four-month epidemic ended, over 4,000 people succumbed to the disease. In addition, 17,000 of the city’s 45,000 to 55,000 residents, including President George Washington, fled to safer ground.

The deadly disease, which struck many teenagers and heads of families, turned the skin yellow. Other symptoms included: bleeding from just about any orifice and “black vomit.”