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Located between Riker’s Island and the Bronx on the East River, North Brother Island currently sits in a state of disrepair, abandoned for the last fifty years.

But it wasn’t always this way. Back in the nineteenth century, the city of New York decided an isolated location was necessary to quarantine and treat those suffering from infectious disease. North Brother Island provided the perfect solution.

The existing Riverside Hospital was moved to North Brother Island in 1885 and re-established as a quarantine facility.

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The most famous resident of North Brother Island was Typhoid Mary. Typhoid Mary was the first documented person in the United States to be a carrier of Typhoid fever. Mary was accused to have infected over 50 people over the course of her life.

In 1915 Mary was sent to quarantine on North Brother Island for the remainder of her life.  She would eventually die of pneumonia on North Brother in 1938.

After the Second World War, the housing shortage would see North Brother house war veterans.

Once the housing shortage subsided in the ‘50s, North Brother Island became a drug addict rehabilitation center. The facility wasn’t exactly known for its assessment of heroin addiction; heroin users were merely locked in a room until they were clean. Others claim they were held against their will.

By the 1960s staff corruption and a high number of relapse in patients forced the facility to close. With aging facilities and no other uses for the island, the government abandoned it in 1963.

It has not seen use since.

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Most of the buildings are still there, but all are heavily deteriorated and in danger of collapse.

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)

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Currently North Brother Island is a bird sanctuary.

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PS General Slocum Disaster

North Brother Island was also the site of the largest New York City-area disaster until the September 11th attacks in 2001. In June of 1904, the steamboat PS General Slocum caught fire and sank in the East River.

Over 1,000 people on board died, most washing up along the shores of North Brother Island.

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Aerial view of North Brother Island December 1957:

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Riverside Hospital pictures courtesy of The Kingston Lounge

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Sweet! Thanks for posting…I’m surprised there hasn’t been an effort to repurpose this area…maybe your post will spark interest… ;-)

  2. New reader of the blog, and rapidly addicted to your archive. Sublime and compelling and so nicely judged. I recently listened to the WYNC Radiolab episode featuring Typhoid Mary. Satisfying to get a little closer to the action with this post. Thanks.

  3. So want the iron staircase for my barn…Good job as always finding and bringing to us interesting and long forgotten places and items of interest. I would like to explore some of the places I’ve seen on the website, best wishes to you in the new year.

  4. I love your blog. Please keep posting.
    I am wondering if access to the buildings is difficult.

  5. I want to to thank you for this excellent read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I’ve got you saved as a favorite to look at new stuff you post…

  6. Since the government abandoned the island in 1963, does that mean nobody actually owns the island? Could somebody with millions come in and wipe the island clean and build some 5 star resort?

  7. Hopefully nobody can do this. As mentioned (as always very interesting and detailed), the island is a bird sanctuary now and I hope no one ever will be able to build something on it. I sure would like to visit it.

  8. Was watching “Life After People” on Netflix and googled about this Island which I’d never heard of before. Your photo’s and information are amazing thanks!

    Kristi

  9. Really interesting and i would wish to learn more about this abandoned island. I heard that the government is trying turn the island into a school special needs’ children.

    • I don’t know if this is related, but I’ve noticed sometimes Google doesn’t have higher resolution shots of bodies of water and areas that are uninhabited. I’ve seen this issue in the middle of the oceans and deserts on Google Earth – wonder if it’s the same thing there?

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