North Brother Island is an
island in the East
River situated between the Bronx and Riker's Island. Its companion, South Brother
Island, is a short distance away. The island was
uninhabited until 1885, when Riverside Hospital moved there from
the island now known as Roosevelt Island.
Riverside Hospital was founded in the 1850s
as the Smallpox
Hospital to treat and
isolate victims of that disease; its mission eventually expanded to
diseases. Typhoid Mary
was confined to the island for over
two decades until she died there in 1938. The hospital closed
After World War II
, the island housed
war veterans who were students at local colleges, along with their
families. After the nationwide housing shortage abated, the island
was once again abandoned.
In the 1950s a center opened to treat adolescent drug users. The
facility claimed to be the first to offer treatment,
rehabilitation, and education facilities to young drug offenders.
Heroin addicts were confined to this island and locked in a room
until they were clean. Many of them believed they were being held
against their will (as one person wrote on the wall). By the early
1960s widespread staff corruption and patient recidivism
forced the facility to close.
The island is currently abandoned and off-limits to the public.
Most of the original hospitals buildings still stand, but are
heavily deteriorated and in danger of collapse. A dense forest
conceals the ruined hospital buildings and supports one of the
area's largest nesting colonies of Black-crowned Night Heron
The island was the site of the wreck of the SS General Slocum,
a steamship which burned
on June 15, 1904. Over 1,000 people died either from the fire on
board the ship or from drowning before the ship was beached on the
Together, the two Brother Islands, North and South, have a land
area of .
In The Media
- North Brother Island was featured in episode 8 ("Armed and
Defenseless") of "Life After People" on the History Channel. It was
used as an example of what would happen to structures after 45
years without humans.