Friday, January 14, 2011
One New York Spot I've Never Visited
(Above: All photos from The Kingston Lounge.)
I've always been fascinated by the many small islands in the waters that surround New York City. Today, most are deserted and many are off limits to the public. But for much of the city's history, these islands were used to separate New York's "undesirables" from the rest of the population. Some islands were home to criminals. Others were home to the poor, the mentally ill, or the dead. And for many years, New Yorkers suffering from contagious diseases were sent to North Brother Island in the East River. (Only a couple of miles away from Manhattan.)
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, if you developed typhoid, smallpox, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, or leprosy--and lacked the funds necessary for private treatment--there was an excellent chance you'd end up on North Brother Island. ("Typhoid Mary" Mallon did. She died there in 1938.) The conditions on the island were deplorable. Few who made the trip ever made it home.
In the mid-20th century, North Brother ceased to be a quarantine island, and the buildings on the island were used for a variety of purposes until the island was finally abandoned in 1963. Few people have been there since (as you can see from the photos above).
The Kingston Lounge blog has dozens of photos of North Brother Island that are well worth a look--along with a fascinating account of the island's history. (There is a photo of a rather crude word scribbled on a wall. If that sort of thing disturbs you, please stick with the PBS video posted below!)