Smallpox Hospital landmark new york

The Smallpox Hospital: A Landmark Of Healing And Recovery


The Smallpox Hospital, sometimes called the Renwick Smallpox Hospital, is a landmark that represents one of the challenging times in the history of human civilization. It had been a refuge for many New York residents infected with the smallpox disease during the late 1700s.

The hospital’s ruins still stand at the southern end part of Blackwell’s Island, now known as Roosevelt Island, in New York City. During that time, the island was a location for outcasts like prisoners, the mentally ill, and the sick.

An Infirmary Built During a Health Crisis

During the early 1800s, the spread of smallpox disease affected Western Europe and the United States on a wide scale. Before discovering the vaccine, many hospitals were explicitly built for smallpox patients.

Plans for the building of Renwick Smallpox Hospital started in 1850; those with the “loathsome malady,” as smallpox back then, were quarantined and treated at this hospital. The arrival of infected immigrants resulted in more disease outbreaks in the city.

So in 1856, the city officially opened the Renwick Smallpox Hospital, designed by a prominent New York architect, James Renwick Jr., with a Gothic Revival theme. He was known for creating St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Renwick Hospital was also built through prison labor.

For 19 years, the 100-bed capacity infirmary served as a hospital treating more than 7,000 patients yearly. The facility was turned into a nurses’ dormitory and training center in 1875. The hospital building was then moved to North Brothers Island due to the rising population in Blackwell’s Island.

In the 1950s, the Smallpox Hospital was abandoned totally and left in bad condition for several years. But in 1975, the Landmarks Preservation Commission had an interest in the old hospital building and declared it a New York City landmark.

The ruins of Smallpox Hospital are not open for official tours. There were plans to restore and renovate the Gothic Revival-style structure, but it remains continued in the future. The walls were reinforced to prevent them from totally collapsing. You can see that only a portion of the outer walls and the building’s foundations stand today.

Anyone interested in visiting weird places or going on a spooky adventure can drop by the sight. The eerie place is considered by many to be haunted. More than that, there’s still a piece of history you can discover here.