Learn the Fascinating History of Roosevelt Island Through These Vintage Photographs

U.K. newspaper The Daily Mail recently published a great collection of vintage photos of Roosevelt Island, detailing a bit of its history along with each one.

  • Roosevelt Island was called Minnehanonck by the Native Americans, meaning 'it's nice to be on the island'
  • Two-mile-long island was first purchased by the Dutch, then used as farmland by the British
  • In 1821, the Blackwell family sold what as then called Blackwell's Island to the city
  • The city used the land to build a smallpox hospital, prison and insane asylum
  • These institutions began to disappear in the 20th century, bringing a new age of high-rise living to the island

Check out the full article for more on the history of Roosevelt Island.

Roosevelt Island was used as land for New York City's prisons, insane asylums and smallpox hospitals before it was turned into a home for 14,000 city residents with the building of several high-rise apartment buildings. Pictured above from Manhattan
Roosevelt Island was used as land for New York City's prisons, insane asylums and smallpox hospitals before it was turned into a home for 14,000 city residents with the building of several high-rise apartment buildings. Pictured above from Manhattan
Photo: Daily Mail
While the two-mile-long island is used mainly as a site for high-rise apartment buildings and hospitals, it started out as a colonial farm and once housed some of New York's most corrupt prisons and insane asylums
While the two-mile-long island is used mainly as a site for high-rise apartment buildings and hospitals, it started out as a colonial farm and once housed some of New York's most corrupt prisons and insane asylums
Photo: Daily Mail
Above, a view of the former smallpox hospital that was located on the island. The hospital was designed by James Renwick - the same man who designed St Patrick's Cathedral and the Smithsonian Institute
Above, a view of the former smallpox hospital that was located on the island. The hospital was designed by James Renwick - the same man who designed St Patrick's Cathedral and the Smithsonian Institute
Photo: Daily Mail
Patients sleeping on beds in a large tent on what was then known as Welfare Island in the mid-1890s. The city's prison was later relocated to Riker's Island, where it remains to this day
Patients sleeping on beds in a large tent on what was then known as Welfare Island in the mid-1890s. The city's prison was later relocated to Riker's Island, where it remains to this day
Photo: Daily Mail
Two men carrying a patient from the ferry to the pier on Welfare Island, New York, New York, mid 1890s
Two men carrying a patient from the ferry to the pier on Welfare Island, New York, New York, mid 1890s
Photo: Daily Mail
Poorly constructed barn or outbuilding on the grounds of Welfare Island, with a doghouse visible in 1896. The island was originally used as farmland by Dutch and English settlers
Poorly constructed barn or outbuilding on the grounds of Welfare Island, with a doghouse visible in 1896. The island was originally used as farmland by Dutch and English settlers
Photo: Daily Mail
Grounds and a building on Welfare Island, New York, New York, 1896. For most of its history, the island has been called Blackwell's Island after the original family that farmed on the narrow island
Grounds and a building on Welfare Island, New York, New York, 1896. For most of its history, the island has been called Blackwell's Island after the original family that farmed on the narrow island
Photo: Daily Mail
A view of Welfare Island's prison recreation yard, showing a race riot. The island's prison was notoriously corrupt and run by different gangs
A view of Welfare Island's prison recreation yard, showing a race riot. The island's prison was notoriously corrupt and run by different gangs
Photo: Daily Mail
Charity houses and hospitals were also located on the island after it was purchased by the city in the early 1800s
Charity houses and hospitals were also located on the island after it was purchased by the city in the early 1800s
Photo: Daily Mail
When prisoners were sent to Blackwell's Island, they worked in the quarry breaking up rocks
When prisoners were sent to Blackwell's Island, they worked in the quarry breaking up rocks
Photo: Daily Mail
Above, a view of the House of Refuge that was once located on the island
Above, a view of the House of Refuge that was once located on the island
Photo: Daily Mail
Buildings on the island were also used for medical quarantine. Tens of thousands died on the island during the smallpox outbreak
Buildings on the island were also used for medical quarantine. Tens of thousands died on the island during the smallpox outbreak
Photo: Daily Mail
Some faces behind bars at Blackwell's Island Penitentiary. Gangs were given wide controls of the prison, due to corrupt workers
Some faces behind bars at Blackwell's Island Penitentiary. Gangs were given wide controls of the prison, due to corrupt workers
Photo: Daily Mail
Above, a print of the workhouse on Welfare Island, where prisoners were put to work in jobs like breaking rocks
Above, a print of the workhouse on Welfare Island, where prisoners were put to work in jobs like breaking rocks
Photo: Daily Mail
Women are pictured inside a cell on Blackwell's Island in this print released by the New York Public Library
Women are pictured inside a cell on Blackwell's Island in this print released by the New York Public Library
Photo: Daily Mail
In the 1840s, Charles Dickens visited the island to see the patients at the insane asylum. The front entrance of the asylum remains on the island as the lobby to a high-rise apartment building
In the 1840s, Charles Dickens visited the island to see the patients at the insane asylum. The front entrance of the asylum remains on the island as the lobby to a high-rise apartment building
Photo: Daily Mail
Today, Roosevelt's Island is home to 14,000 people - many of them workers at the United Nations which is just a short tram or Subway trip across the river.
Today, Roosevelt's Island is home to 14,000 people - many of them workers at the United Nations which is just a short tram or Subway trip across the river.
Photo: Daily Mail
The Renwick Ruin on Manhattan's Roosevelt Island in New York fell into disrepair after being in use for a century. The hospital was constructed between 1854 and 1856 to be a small pox hospital and for many years it was New York's only such institution
The Renwick Ruin on Manhattan's Roosevelt Island in New York fell into disrepair after being in use for a century. The hospital was constructed between 1854 and 1856 to be a small pox hospital and for many years it was New York's only such institution
Photo: Daily Mail
The Roosevelt Island tram is one way to get on and off the island. The island also has one subway stop
The Roosevelt Island tram is one way to get on and off the island. The island also has one subway stop
Photo: Daily Mail
Roosevelt island 2x
Roosevelt Island

Something wrong with this post? Let us know!

Brought To You By…