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North Brother Island



Location: East River Map

Area: 20.12 acres (81,400 m2)


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Description of North Brother Island


Area: 20.12 acres (81,400 m2)


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 1938.
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.




Typhoid Mary


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 Brother island's 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 unfortunate woman.

General Slocum Tragedy

North 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 River.



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 the island.

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