The Buildings That Once Marked the Tip of Welfare Island

Southern tip Welfare Island

Recently Judy Berdy, President of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, reminded me of an article she produced with Dick Lutz of the The Main Street WIRE from the December 13, 2014 issue. I encourage you to find it here, see pages 12 and 13. The article is titled What Has Gone Before… and in it Berdy visually identifies nearly thirty buildings and infrastructural elements that once existed on the southern tip of the island, marking each structure on an archival aerial photograph taken in 1934. It reminds readers of a time when the island was entirely dedicated to the care of “the diseased, the criminal, the impoverished, and the otherwise undesirable of New York City.” The southern end of Welfare Island was, at that point, entirely scattered with nursing dormitories, hospitals, prison yards, and maternity pavilions. It was a far different place than the walking paths and open park spaces that exist today.

Today, only two of those original buildings exist:  The Strecker Memorial Laboratory and the Smallpox Hospital. The others were demolished, most recently the James Renwick, Jr. City Hospital, which was razed in 1994.

We located an aerial photograph of the island, taken in 1951 (published above) and identified some of these buildings on an architectural plan, published here for you. The buildings depicted in this plan show what Southpoint Park once looked like.

Architectural plan, research for plan made available from the Roosevelt Island Historical Society and  The Main Street WIRE

Architectural plan, research for plan made available from the Roosevelt Island Historical Society and The Main Street WIRE

Buildings that once existed within Southpoint Park

A.  City Hospital, also known as Charity Hospital, designed by James Renwick, Jr., demolished in 1994.

B.  Children’s Pavilion, demolished date unknown

C.  Nurses’ Home, demolished date unknown

D.  Chapel, demolished date unknown

E.  Maternity Pavilion, demolished date unknown

F.  Columbia University Facility, demolished date unknown
G.  Service Building, demolished date unknown
H.  Elevated corridor between the Service Building and City Hospital, demolished date unknown
I.  Strecker Memorial Laboratory, restored in 2002 and now functions as MTA substation
J.  Powerhouse, demolished date unknown

K.  Female Dormitory, demolished date unknown

L.  Paint Shop, demolished date unknown

M.  Male Dormitory, demolished date unknown

N.  Smallpox Hospital

O.  Brennan Hall, part of the nursing school complex, constructed in 1904, demolished date unknown