North Brother Island lies in
the middle of the East River between the Bronx and Riker's Island in
a state of New York. Even though it is surrounded by New York City
and its suburbs the island is off limits to the public. Despite that
people still risk breaking a law and make their way on the this
small piece of property. North Brother Island is located close to
port Morris in New York. Today it is abandoned for over 50 years,
but in the late 19th and early 20th century it was filled with
thousands of patients, doctors, nurses and other hospital staff.
Ghostly ruins of a hospital still remembers those who were sent here
and those who died here.
Its history begin in 1885 when
Historic Riverside Hospital that was moved here. North Brother
island served as a quarantine for people sick with small pox,
typhoid as well as other transmittable diseases. The most famous
resident of this medical complex was Mary Mallon, more commonly
known as Typhoid Mary. She spent two years here until her death in
After World War II become a residence for returning
veterans. Here they lived with their families while attending
college in New York. In the 50's former hospital was transformed
into a centre to treat adolescent drug addicts. North Brother Island
medical facilities were intended to treat and rehabilitate youth,
but staff corruption and cruelty against patients forced closure of
the centre in 1960's. Since then it was turned into a bird sanctuary
that is closed to public. Buildings of the hospital were not turned
down. Instead they were left alone to deteriorate on their own. If
you do manage to sneak on the island watch your step. Many of the
buildings are rotting and falling apart. After half of a century of
neglect many of them turned into death traps.
Mary Mallon (September 23, 1869- November 11, 1938) or simply
Typhoid Mary as she is popularly known. She became famous as an
asymptomatic carrier of typhoid disease caused by bacteria
Salmonella typhi. Working as a cook for several families she
managed to infect as many as 51 people. Three of them died.
Health officials eventually transferred her to the North Brother
Island on March 27, 1915 to keep public safe and contain the
disease. Here she spent the rest of her life until her death.
While on the island she worked as a technician in the North
laboratory. Mary died on November 11, 1938 from pneumonia. Upon her death a autopsy was performed. Coroner
discovered live typhoid bacteria in a gallbladder of a
General Slocum Tragedy
Brother Island was a site of tragedy of ironclad General Slocum.
This steamship was chartered on June 15, 1904 by Saint Mark's
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Little District of Manhattan.
It was an annual ride for families of German immigrants. Over
1400 passengers boarded the ship and it set sail around 9:30am.
They were supposed to travel along an East Island. However just
thirty minutes into a voyage as they passed East 90th Street a
fir broke out in the Lamp Room.
Fire quickly followed through the vessel. The crew of the ship
was completely unprepared for the situation. Captain Van Schaick
was informed about the fire 10 minutes after it was first
discovered. Water hoses and fire extinguishers proved to be
defective and didn't work. Some of them simply rotted due to
negligence of the crew. It also became impossible to get most of
the life boats from the deck of a steam ship. Life jackets were
also defective in most cases. Parents of the children discovered
in horror that children they tossed overboard dressed in life
jackets drowned instead of floating as they expected it.
Analysis of the life vests after the tragedy discovered that the
material used in its production was of inferior quality. To
increase its weight to required mass factory workers at
Nonpareil Cork Works added iron to life vests. It became almost impossible to
survive the currents of the river, especially if you couldn't
swim. In less than an hour 1021 people were killed either on a
ship by burning fire or by jumping in the waters of the East
From the 1980s through the early 2000s, North Brother Island
supported one of the area's largest nesting colonies of
black-crowned night heron. However, as of 2008 this species has
abandoned the island for unknown reasons. Barn swallows use the
abandoned structures for nesting, and can be seen flying over
On South Brother Island, dense brush supports
a major nesting colony of several species of birds, notably
black-crowned night heron, great egret, snowy egret, and
double-crested cormorant. New York City Audubon has monitored
nesting colonies on the island for over twenty years