Ipswich's Renwick Celebrates 150 Years

Happy 150th Birthday to the Ascencion Memorial Church located in Ipswich, Massachusetts.


A Brief History of the building, According to the local Ipswich newspaper:

The history of Episcopal worship in Ipswich dates back as early as 1839, but it was not until a significant number of English and Scottish immigrants came in the succeeding decades that a parish was feasible. By 1861, Town Hall and the Damon Building were being used for prayer book services and in 1867 the Parish of the Ascension was organized with the Rev. Henry Wall as its first rector.
In 1868, the Rev. Dr. John Cotton Smith, rector of the Church of the Ascension, New York City, and a summer resident of Ipswich, “with the aid of friends” purchased the present parish lot on County Street from John Heard.
Smith, brother-in-law of vestryman and warden Daniel Fuller Appleton, lent his active support to the new church. One of his New York parishioners, the American architect James Renwick Jr., was chosen to create the design and several artifacts from the Church of the Ascension in New York were donated for the altar area. Other distinctive features, including the decorative windows, were given by the Appleton family and other prominent parishioners.
Consistent with his design for New York’s famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Renwick proposed a Gothic Revival-style building for Ipswich. The cornerstone was laid in 1869 and the first service was held in 1870. According to Ipswich historian Thomas Franklin Waters, “Services were begun in the church as soon as the chancel was finished, though the windows were still covered with cotton cloth, and simple settees answered for pews.” Practical Yankees indeed.
Over a dozen years elapsed before the final installment was made on the building in 1881. Construction was then completed and the church was consecrated in 1883. The vision and perseverance of the founders had finally paid off.

Wishing many more years to this beautiful building!

Q & A with Roosevelt Island's Misha Cohen

Misha Cohen, a Roosevelt Island resident from 2006 to 2011, spent her first few years while living on the Island immersed in an incredible and important photojournalism project. A photojournalist who studied art and anthropology at the University of California Irvine and journalism at NYU, she often contributed stories to The Main Street WIRE. Cohen is a lover of Roosevelt Island and while here she interviewed countless Island residents and captured their stories, both with the camera’s lens and on paper. The photography, which was done with a medium-format camera, gathers stories of many people we still see on the Island today. Others are of people who are no longer with us or have moved away. Cohen completed the project prior to the closing of the Coler Goldwater Hospital, a hospital campus that was north of the Smallpox Hospital where the new Cornell Technion campus will be. The images speak powerfully to that era on the Island. TheRuin.org was able to talk to Cohen and discuss this project. We’re thrilled to share her images and excerpts of her interviews with residents, as well as this Q & A with you. (For more about Misha Cohen's work, visit her website here.)

Cohen's 2007 Photograph and Bio of Maria Stoica

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

"At 62 [Maria] continues to work faithfully at the Roosevelt Island flower shop, where she started 20 years ago after leaving her then oppressive communist country, Romania. She didn’t speak much English and learned everything from television.

'The hardest thing to get used to in the US is the language, I can’t express the I way I want to express myself and because I have an accent, people are rude. Now I am rude, too. I was shy, but I cannot take it anymore,' she said."


TheRuin.org: Tell us about these images and what prompted you to complete this project? The photographs are often of individuals and are accompanied by a short biography of the individual. Why?

Cohen: When I first moved to Roosevelt Island in 2006, I was struck by its unique and diverse population. Beyond the diversity that people recall when they think of New York City, Roosevelt Island is a community surrounded by people of different races and backgrounds and it has a significant population of people living with disabilities who are totally integrated into the culture. I would see people rushing off the train and walking down Main Street and alongside would be men and women on gurneys or in wheelchairs, some even on breathing machines. This is something totally unique to our Island and that struck a chord in me.

I wanted to know the stories of many of the faces I saw daily:  the owner of the five-and-dime, the kids on the basketball court, the woman, always with a smile on her face, her breathing assisted by a tube. I realized there had not yet been a photo-story of its current inhabitants. I am a photojournalist and I loved my city, New York City, and I wanted to share this unique part of the City with others. I wanted to document it, even memorialize it in a way. I was in my mid-twenties, and not far out of art school. With a Hasselblad in-hand, I walked the streets and I listened. I would interview those I photographed almost by instinct. I would often make lists and figure out who were the individuals that represented the Island.

Nancy and Sister Barbra, for example. These two women have been on the Island for decades and they love the Island and its residents, yet to many they might be nameless faces in a sea of faces that is New York. In 2006, I was also motivated by the stories of a few young black men that I met in front Goldwater Memorial Hospital. Many of the individuals I met became quadriplegic after being shot. I know many only by nickname, and though I met with them weekly for years, I was never able to take their portraits. But it was these stories that became my passion. Even now as I revisit this work after all this time, my heart aches for the stories that I did not get to share. But I am proud of what I did accomplish and thankful to those who let me into their lives.

John Rochford

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

"John was born in New Jersey in 1934, raised in Philadelphia and spent the majority of his life living in the now trendy neighborhood of Greenwich in Manhattan before he decided to retire on Roosevelt Island….

John worked as a producer for both television and radio-but as he says, 'don’t waste your time trying to define yourself by your job, too many people do that.'

Now he spends much of his time sitting on the benches that grace the east side of Main Street. He is a quiet and simple man very content with his life."

TheRuin.org: What was your favorite aspect of living on Roosevelt Island during your time there?

Cohen: I love Roosevelt Island because it is a refuge from the busy-ness of Manhattan. When you’re here, you’re in the center of it all, surrounded by the gorgeous views of midtown and New York’s iconic buildings. At night I would sit on my couch and look out onto the Empire State Building, always changing her colors, lighting up my night sky.

There is also a peacefulness that comes from living surrounded by water. I would run around the Island’s perimeter and think Here I am in the middle of New York City, filled with millions of people and yet I am the only one on this trail. Across the water in either direction cars were zooming by, high rises filling the sky. I could see the United Nations. The City was busy and bustling, but from where I stood, it was quiet. I could hear the lap of the East River upon the rocky shore. It was ethereal for me. A refuge.

I also loved the Island’s history, that it was ours — it wasn't a tourist destination. The Island is home to her residents. It was the residents I loved, the people from all different backgrounds, living in close proximity. I would get off the Tram and next to me would be a dignitary from the United Nations in native dress, a mom and her kids, a famous scientist, writer, an influential Christian leader, an artist. And there we were in this enclave — a sweet, safe, little community. It is the only place I would live in New York City!

Letisia Sakaria

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

"Her family sent her from her home in Namibia… when she was 15, so she could get a better education. She wants to be a doctor.

'I feel so bad in my country sometimes people are just dying because whenever they want to go to the hospital there is not enough doctors,' she said. 'In the clinic next to my village it takes one month to send people to the big hospital. I love my country and want to help my people.'"

Nancy Brown

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com


"Nancy has spent almost her entire life on a breathing machine. She got polio when she was seven, missing the vaccine by only three years. In the beginning she was placed in an iron lung, the confinement of the machine didn’t bother her, she said, 'I liked being in the machine. I was happy, I just wanted to breathe.'

In the 60’s she lived at Goldwater hospital on Roosevelt Island with her then husband who also had polio. After living at Goldwater for ten years, the first residential buildings were built on the Island and she moved out of the hospital and into her own apartment.

According to Nancy, the Island is an ideal place to live for people with physical disabilities. 'The Island is a peaceful and comfortable place and it’s easy to get around in my wheelchair.'"

David Simon

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

"David has a spot that he likes to hang out right before lunch — the entrance to the F train on Roosevelt Island. He has a cup that he holds hoping that people will drop some change — he's not homeless, he lives at the Goldwater Hospital, where he has been a patient for the past year because of knee problems, and just wants some of his own spending money."

Sister Barbra

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

Misha Cohen www.mishacohenphoto.com

"Sister Barbra came to Roosevelt Island in the 1970’s, as the Island’s first nun, to establish the parish that was born when people began to make their home on the Island.

She was called to the ministry in her youth; growing up in Sister Cabrini’s church, in Pennsylvania, she was surrounded by her legacy, and admired St. Francis Cabrini’s heart for children and the poor."

160 Years - The Smallpox Hospital

Happy 160th Birthday to the Smallpox Hospital

Rendering of the original Smallpox Hospital

Rendering of the original Smallpox Hospital

On this day in history, the Smallpox Hospital opened its doors to victims of this disease. Prior to its opening, patients were housed in what the State of New York described as piles of poor wooden outhouses on the edge of East River. Need for a hospital with proper accommodations was most critical. Fortunately, for its design, the State selected James Renwick, Jr., a young architect who had recently completed the main Smithsonian Institution building in Washington, DC. His three-story Gothic Revival structure included a central dome, a stately entrance and windows throughout. It took roughly two years to complete, the stone used was native to the island and it opened to the public on December 18, 1856.

Isaac Townsend, Chairman of the Committee of the Almshouse Department for Blackwell Island, presided at the building's opening ceremony. The Smallpox Hospital, he stated, would "afford accommodations to all persons laboring under the [smallpox] disease.” He spoke to the committee’s progressive views of providing healthcare for all, not just the wealthy or entitled.

Townsend concluded boldly "the consciousness of having in our day and generation anticipated the future greatness and glory of our country, ought to form a sufficient reward for the preserving labors we bring to so satisfactory a termination. We would that every citizen might raise for himself a monument in some new institution, destined to carry down to future ages the blessings of a progressive civilization.”

Quite interestingly, Townsend also provided details of what the structure once looked like inside, before it was a ruin.

An interior corridor of the building circa 1980. By 1980 the building had already been vacant for 30 years. The interiors of the Smallpox Hospital have since been stripped of walls and architectural details.

An interior corridor of the building circa 1980. By 1980 the building had already been vacant for 30 years. The interiors of the Smallpox Hospital have since been stripped of walls and architectural details.

Two corridors cross each other on each floor, the entire length and width of the building. The staircase is of iron. The first floor is devoted to the use of the Physician, Matron, servants’ rooms, kitchen, laundry and stores. The second floor is for charity patients, and is divided into four large and four small wards. The larger are 23 feet by 15, the smaller 15 by 11, and are calculated to accommodate 50 to 60 sick persons. The ceilings throughout are sufficiently lofty. Ventilation is secured by an air duct connected with a chimney and a windsail, and communicating by flues in the walls with each ward. Other flues, connecting with the cupola, are traversed by air that has been rarified by a constant fire, and drawn from the rooms below…

New York City Lunatic Asylum - A Brief History

Building: The New York City Lunatic Asylum

Architect: Alexander Jackson Davis, restoration and adaptive reuse in 2006 by Becker + Becker

Design and Construction: 1834-1839

Location: Northern end of Roosevelt Island, New York City

Alexander Jackson Davis, Avery Library

Alexander Jackson Davis, Avery Library

The New York City Lunatic Asylum, now a residential building known as The Octagon, was designed in 1834-35 and opened in 1839.  The building’s architect was Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892), known for the United States Custom House (presently the Federal Hall National Memorial) in downtown Manhattan, among many government buildings across the United States.

According to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission report of 1976, the Lunatic Asylum “was erected in response to the desperate need for proper accommodation for the insane.” By the mid-1800s, the island was expanding with medical and institutional developments, a reflection of the City’s progressive changes toward the infirm:  the mentally ill were not meant for prisons and restraints, but could benefit from medical assistance and support by skilled practitioners.

Location of the Lunatic Asylum, now The Octagon, on Roosevelt Island

Location of the Lunatic Asylum, now The Octagon, on Roosevelt Island

In 1894, the asylum was renamed Metropolitan Hospital but was abandoned by the mid-1950s. Like the Smallpox Hospital, it immediately began to fall into great disrepair. The roof was caving in, its architectural details were shedding, and the building’s formidable dome needed repair. Despite its derelict state, in 1972 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places for, among many items, its expressive use of stone quarried from the island. In 2006, architect and developer Becker + Becker masterfully restored the building and converted it into a residential structure. A must see when visiting Roosevelt Island.

Historic American Building Survey

Today, we showcase images taken of the asylum by the Library of Congress and the Historic American Building Survey. These photographs were taken in the 1970s and reveal the building's beauty and disrepair.

Robert Moses on Roosevelt Island

Robert Moses with the United Nations in the background, Arnold Newman Archives

Robert Moses with the United Nations in the background, Arnold Newman Archives

This one photograph is considered the most famous image of New York’s master commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981). The New York Times describes the scene. Robert Moses, “chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority — just one of his many titles — standing on a red I-beam suspended over the East River, arms on his hips, a roll of drawings in his hand: the master builder at work. Behind him, on the opposite shore, is the United Nations complex — just one of the hundreds of city-altering projects Mr. Moses captained between the 1920s and 1960s, decades in which, having consolidated political power through a genius for writing legislation, he shaped New York City.”

Robert Moses and Arnold Newman side by side, Arnold Newman Archives

Robert Moses and Arnold Newman side by side, Arnold Newman Archives

The scene was captured by famed photographer Arnold Newman (1918-2006) on a sunny Thursday afternoon in June 1959. Context shows that the photograph was taken on Roosevelt Island’s southern shore. By the late 1950s, Roosevelt Island was still known as Welfare Island and contained many more hospitals and prisons than exist today. The Smallpox Hospital had been empty for only a few years and stood with greater strength and grace. We’re pleased to share the image with you today.

Where did the red I-beam come from? An interview by Getty Images with Mr. Newman reveals how this incredible image was captured.

Excerpt from Getty Images Behind the Lens interview with Arnold Newman:

Getty Images: You photographed Robert Moses a couple of times. Can you talk about your background with Moses?

Arnold Newman: Robert Moses was a wealthy man who more or less went into politics. He wanted to rebuild New York City. He started building roads to make it easier for traffic. What he didn't envision was the fact that the more roads and bridges and things he built, the more people bought cars and made the roads even more crowded.

Down the block from where we live is Tavern on the Green and a playground where all the families on our block played with their kids. Moses decided that Tavern on the Green needed more parking space. He was going to bring in bulldozers and knock all the trees down so he could build a parking lot alongside the playground. My wife and I were very involved in a well-publicized protest that contributed to Moses backing down.

After that, I was asked to photograph him by Holiday magazine.

Getty Images: Did he know you'd been involved in the protest?

Arnold Newman: No. I was introduced to him as Arnold Newman, but he didn't make the connection.

Getty Images: Did your personal feelings about the changes he was making to New York affect the way you photographed him?

Arnold Newman: No, not really. But I did want to show him as the builder of New York. I had the idea exactly as you see it. And he was very happy with it.

We got a huge aluminum I-beam and put big heavy weights on one end so it would be sturdy. The "connector" at the end is an Arnold Newman fake. I got a big piece of cardboard and some clay and I very carefully made it to look that way, then painted it the same color we painted the I-beam. Moses is only about two-and-a-half feet off the ground and about 12 feet from the East River -- it was the angle. And it's just a single shot, un-fake. People say, "Wow, you did a great job on the computer," and I say that computers weren't invented until later.

A few years later I photographed Robert Moses in his apartment. When I arrived he said, "Oh, you're the Arnold Newman that took that picture. I'm delighted you're here." And over his fireplace is a print of the portrait I did.

At the end of the session, I said, "You know, Mr. Moses, you really don't remember me. I'm the Arnold Newman of the fight over Tavern on the Green." His face went deep red. He said, "Sit down." And for 30 minutes he tried to argue with me. I didn't argue back. I just said, "We did what we thought was right for our neighborhood and for the children." But I enjoyed watching him get upset.

Remembering Dr. Donald A. Henderson (1928 — 2016)

On Friday, August 19 Dr. Donald A. Henderson passed away. Henderson was considered a leader in the World Health Organization’s fight to eradicate smallpox. Today, the New York Times published his obituary which we have excerpted here.

Dr. Donald A. Henderson, Who Helped End Smallpox, Dies at 87

by Donald G. McNeil, Jr., The New York Times, August 21, 2016, an excerpt

Starting in 1966, Dr. Henderson, known as D. A., led the World Health Organization’s war on the smallpox virus. He achieved success astonishingly quickly. The last known case was found in a hospital cook in Somalia in 1977.

Standing left to right, Dr. Donald A. Henderson, Dr. J. Donald Millar, Dr. John J. Witte, and Dr. Leo Morris in one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) former offices. Dr. Donald A. Henderson, headed the international effort during the 1960s to eradicate smallpox. CDC

Standing left to right, Dr. Donald A. Henderson, Dr. J. Donald Millar, Dr. John J. Witte, and Dr. Leo Morris in one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) former offices. Dr. Donald A. Henderson, headed the international effort during the 1960s to eradicate smallpox. CDC

Like any war, the one against smallpox involved thousands of foot soldiers — notably outbreak tracers and vaccinators — and more than a few generals. They came from both the United States and the Soviet Union, which first called for the disease’s elimination, as well as from other nations.

But, along with Dr. William H. Foege, now an adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Henderson was considered a field marshal whose combination of vision, bluntness, tenacity and political acumen carried the campaign to victory.

Smallpox, caused by the variola virus, was long one of mankind’s most terrifying scourges. Called the “red plague” or the “speckled monster,” it killed almost a third of its victims, often through pneumonia or brain inflammation. Many others were left blind from corneal ulcerations or severely disfigured by pockmarks.

It is thought to have emerged from a rodent virus more than 10,000 years ago, and signs of it are found in the mummy of Pharaoh Ramses V of Egypt. Some terrified ancient civilizations worshiped it as a deity.

It carried off many European monarchs and buried the lines of succession to thrones from England to China. Because it killed 80 percent of the American Indians who caught it, it was a major factor in the European conquest of the New World.

Three American presidents survived it: George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. In the 20th century, before it was extinguished, it was blamed for at least 300 million deaths.

The victory over smallpox proved the power of vaccine. Before the 18th century, some peoples, especially in Asia Minor and West Africa, inoculated themselves by piercing their skin with pus from victims or inhaling dried pox scabs. Although that sometimes produced a full-blown lethal infection, it killed much less often than epidemics did.

In 1796, Dr. Edward Jenner, an English physician, infected a young boy with cowpox taken from a blister on a milkmaid’s hand. Cowpox, a mild disease, protected those who had it from smallpox, and the modern vaccine era began. The word “vaccine” come from the Latin for “cow.”

Donald Ainslee Henderson was born on Sept. 7, 1928, in Lakewood, Ohio, the son of a Union Carbide engineer and a nurse. He graduated from Oberlin College, got his medical degree from the University of Rochester and did his residency at a hospital in Cooperstown, N.Y.

In 1955, he joined the Epidemic Intelligence Service, the elite disease-detective branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and in 1960, as the chief of viral disease surveillance, he devised a campaign to eliminate smallpox and control measles in Africa. Smallpox had been eliminated in much of the West shortly after World War II, but it persisted in Brazil, Africa and South Asia.

In 1966, he was sent to Geneva to run the World Health Organization’s global campaign.

Dr. Henderson working in the field. World Health Organization

Dr. Henderson working in the field. World Health Organization

“The sense at the W.H.O. was that this was an impossible mission, so they chose a young man who didn’t have a reputation to tarnish,” said Dr. Thomas V. Inglesby, the director of the U.P.M.C. Center for Health Security, where Dr. Henderson was a resident scholar at his death. “I don’t want to say as cannon fodder, but something like that.”

World Health Organization campaigns to end yellow fever and malaria had both petered out, and the organization adopted the smallpox goal only after the Soviets and the Americans insisted, Dr. Foege said. “D. A. always said they wanted an American to blame,” he added.

He was given little staff or support, but remaining on the C.D.C. payroll gave him independence.

“Although outspoken, he understood the absolute importance of diplomacy, and he had the ability to recognize who could go out in the field and get things done with a minimum of supervision,” said Dr. J. Michael Lane, another leader of the fight, now affiliated with Emory University Medical School.

Dr. Henderson spent much of his time visiting smallpox-stricken countries, some of which were also caught up in civil wars. He filed detailed progress reports and threatened to quit when W.H.O. officials asked him to tone them down, Dr. Inglesby said.

When the Soviets shipped weak vaccines, Dr. Foege said, “he went to Moscow and confronted them.”

The campaign developed a freeze-dried vaccine that could withstand tropical heat and be given either with a compressed air “injection gun” or by putting a drop on a forked needle and jabbing it just beneath the skin.

Dr. Henderson's Smallpox: The Death of a Disease was published in 2009, Bill Gates considers it one of his favorite books.

Dr. Henderson's Smallpox: The Death of a Disease was published in 2009, Bill Gates considers it one of his favorite books.

Dr. Henderson quickly realized that trying to vaccinate vast populations was futile and switched to “ring vaccination.” Dr. Foege, who is considered the father of this tactic, said it was “invented by accident” during a 1967 Nigerian outbreak when he had very little vaccine on hand.

“The first night, we asked ourselves what we would do if we were a virus bent on immortality,” he said. They radioed every local missionary asking them to send runners to find out which villages had cases. They sent 80 percent of their vaccine to those villages, using it on the family of each case and all their recent contacts. The last 20 percent went to “anywhere we thought the virus would go next” — which was mostly to market towns where farmers and hunters sold their goods.

“It took D. A. about a year to come around to ring vaccination,” Dr. Lane, who worked with Dr. Foege, said. “But once he did, he was an enthusiastic proselytizer.”

The campaign, many experts have noted, succeeded just in time. A few years later, the virus that causes AIDS spread across Africa. Because the live smallpox vaccine can grow in an immune-compromised person into a huge, rotting, ultimately fatal lesion, it would have been impossible to deploy it.