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Home > Abandoned - Explained, Americas, Creepy, Explained, Government, History, Medical > The Forgotten Island of New York: North Brother

The Forgotten Island of New York: North Brother

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.  North Brother 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.

Thus, existing facility 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.

NBI11

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

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)

NBI16 NBI10 NBI19

NBI5 NBI9 NBI25

NBI24

Currently, North Brother Island is a bird sanctuary.

NBI7 NBI2 NBI4

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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.

NBI3-6 NBI3-5 NBI3-3

NBI3-4

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Aerial view of North Brother Island December 1957:

Riverside Hospital pictures courtesy of The Kingston Lounge

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  1. January 4, 2013 at 01:16

    Hey man great to see another post! Thanks for the effort you must put into this site, it’s great :D

    • Mark
      January 4, 2013 at 04:14

      Agreed. The posts are not that frequent but they’re worth the wait.

  2. elvin
    January 4, 2013 at 04:41

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

  3. January 4, 2013 at 16:19

    Thanks everyone for the positive feedback, I am hoping to step up the frequency of new content this year.

  4. January 4, 2013 at 23:13

    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.

    • zequi
      January 6, 2013 at 22:08

      I was listening to the Radiolab episode just today.

  5. Doug Turchon
    January 5, 2013 at 08:58

    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.

    • jaheim2012
      June 13, 2013 at 08:20

      I was admiring that iron railing too!

    • September 8, 2014 at 13:38

      I hope you leave it there. Funny how people always suggest scavenging when they encounter the beauty of desertion, or is it an American thing? Leave it! It’s heritage!

  6. Pneumatic Devotion
    January 5, 2013 at 12:54

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

  7. Maël
    January 7, 2013 at 03:35

    Thx, very interesting ! :)

  8. Chase
    January 10, 2013 at 01:15

    Hello, just wanted to tell you, I loved this post. It was
    helpful. Keep on posting!

  9. Vanetta Humburg
    January 12, 2013 at 18:17

    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…

    • Levanah
      January 23, 2013 at 09:37

      Ditto!

  10. Levanah
    January 23, 2013 at 09:37

    Fascinating!
    New York is endlessly full of surprises! Thank you for this one.

  11. January 24, 2013 at 09:41

    I really love your blog. I just came across on this yesterday and read all your old postssss. Thanks!

  12. February 25, 2013 at 12:52

    Fascinating article. Glad to see you are posting again. I love the blog. You feature some really great quirky stuff.

  13. jim occi
    April 2, 2013 at 05:19

    Those photos are quite good. Does anyone know how to access the island?

  14. Scott Rupp
    April 25, 2013 at 14:11

    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?

  15. June 8, 2013 at 13:28

    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.

  16. Kristi Marie
    June 15, 2013 at 10:06

    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

  17. Saravanan
    June 27, 2013 at 02:49

    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.

  18. July 25, 2013 at 20:20

    The island is fuzzy when looking at it from Google Earth but other surrounding places are not. What’s up with that?

    • July 25, 2013 at 22:30

      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?

  1. April 10, 2013 at 06:44
  2. June 16, 2013 at 09:51

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