New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Smallpox Hospital

These are the ruins of the Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island (Blackwell's Island at the time), designed by James Renwick, Jr. and completed in 1856. Click here for more photos. The building is faced with gray gneiss, quarried on the island and built using prison labor from the neighboring penitentiary at the time. Smallpox was deadly and highly contagious - at the time, 25% of those afflicted died and survivors were frequently left blind or pockmarked. Although vaccination was common in the 19th century, many were fearful of the procedure. Prior to building of the hospital, cases were treated in shacks on the bank of the river. Unfortunately the new hospital became mired in scandals - spoiled food, patients not cleaned were spreading disease throughout the city, building in disrepair, workers (some convicts) extorted money from patients, etc. In 1875, after a new hospital was built on North Brothers Island, this building became a home for nurses and a training hospital. In 1904-05 North and South wings were added. By the 1950s it was abandoned and has been vacant since. Read more about it here. In 1975, it was granted landmark status. As it sits behind a chainlink fence, its current state is still being debated, but hope is that it will preserved and accessible for visitation ...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was on Roosevelt Island just last week-end actually, and I came across these ruins but had no idea they had such a gloomy history !

I really like your blog, I learn a lot of stuff about NY I would never learn otherwise !

Anonymous said...

Roosevelt Island seems like a fascinating place. If you have a chance in future posts to pivot the camera so we can see the skyline views from this island...that would add perspective. Your series of island shots plus the history has been truly amazing!

Anonymous said...

What a sad story, but it's good to know about them, otherwise all would be forgotten. Nevertheless, it makes a beautiful ruin after all that horror and pain, and love the pictures...

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Brian said...

I do have quite a series of photos of the NYC skyline from the island. I will either post them on this blog or on my Flickr site.
Brian

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