The Lost Island of New York

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There is a small island not 350 yards from the shore of The Bronx, New York, called North Brother Island. It is situated in the East River between The Bronx and Riker’s Island.

From a distance it’s looks quite peaceful with it’s lush vegetation. It is now, but looks can be deceiving.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, New York welcomed a great many immigrants. The welcome wasn’t always pleasant.

Many of these poor immigrannts were forced to live in very cramped & unsanitary condidtions. Conditions that allowed for sickness and disease.

Diseases would inevitably spread and once the health authorities identified a person as having a communicable disease they were seized and forced to live on North Brother Island, where it was first employed as a quarantine centre in 1885.

Conditions were bad. The mortality rate among patients was high and the recovery rate low.

There was no telephone in the early days, so once people were grabbed and taken there, there familes often never heard from them again.

Its first unfortunate guests were patients with communicable diseases such as smallpox, tuberculosis, scarlet fever and diphtheria. There were six people suffering from leprosy confined there in wooden huts.

Living conditions were poor at best and when bad weather stopped ferries from running there were food shortages and in winter, frequently little heat. Incarceration on North Brother was often a death sentence. Those who did return from its shores spoke of a hellish environment like “the black hole of Calcutta”.

It’s most famous, or infamous resident was Mary Mallon, better known as “Typhoid Mary”. She was forcibly incarcerated on North Brother in 1907 until her release in 1910. She had to promise not to work at her former profession as a cook. She broke her promise and was returned to the island in 1915, where she resided in her own cottage on the island until her death in 1938.

In 1942, the island closed for the first time before being used to house World War II veterans who were studying in the city. That idea was quickly abandoned.

In 1952 it underwent its final transformation, hosting an experimental program to treat juvenile drug addicts. It was finally closed for good in 1963 where it remains abandoned and decaying to this day.

A local historian and photographer Ian Ference was granted access to the island. He states, “In 2008, I managed to get NYC park’s department permission to shoot the island. I’ve visited around 15 times since then, documenting what remains and the process of decay. I’m truly fortunate to have been given this exclusive access to one of America’s most significant forbidden places.”

Attribution: UK Daily Mail

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