Friday, September 21, 2012

A Visit to Roosevelt Island, New York City



On my last blog post on this link  I showed your what a tram ride was like from Roosevelt Island to midtown Manhattan and back. On this post I'd like to show you more of this fascinating island that lies in the East River of New York City.



A view of the island from the Roosevelt Island tram.

 Roosevelt Island is positioned between Manhattan on its west and Queens on its east. The waterfront community runs 2 miles in length and extends from east 46th street to east 85th street. It is comprised of a predominant middle class, diverse population of less than ten thousand people who live in predominately  affordable, and spacious, high rise buildings. There are abundant parks on the island, but it lacks major shopping amenities and night life venues that attract many people, but this fact also gives it a quiet, suburban quality of life very close to Manhattan.



The island was not designed for automobile traffic, and they are not needed on the island, although there are roads and cars are permitted. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) operates an on-island shuttle bus service from apartment buildings to the subway and the tramway for a fare of 25¢ (10¢ for seniors and disabled people). One of these bright red buses can be seen in the photo above. 



Roosevelt Island has a varied and interesting history. It was once named Blackwell Island, then became known as Welfare Island and finally renamed in honor of the 32nd United States President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1973.  A FDR Hope Memorial is being constructed in a park on the island.
(The above photo--and all of my photos on this post--can be enlarged by clicking on it and then clicking on it again when it opens on a new page.  Use your browsers back arrow to return to this post.)

The following interesting historical  information about Roosevelt Island came from this web site: "Before the City of New York bought the two-mile-long island for $32,000 in 1828, this stretch of land passed through many hands. Dutch Gov. Wouter Van Twiller first purchased it from the Canarsie Indians in 1637 and called it Hog Island. The purchase was later declared void by New York Governor Peter Stuyvesant, and the island went to Capt. Francis Fyn. But Fyn's ownership didn't last long. When the English defeated the Dutch in 1666, Captain John Manning seized and re-baptized the island with his last name. But 20 years later, Manning's son-in-law, Robert Blackwell, became the island's new owner and namesake. That name stuck for 235 years; meanwhile, Blackwell's great-grandson Jacob constructed the Blackwell House in 1796."


The Blackwell House still stands on Roosevelt Island, having been restored by the New York State Urban Development Corporation in 1975, and is a beautiful example of early 18th century architecture. It is now used as a community center. Views of the front and rear of the house and it's eastern walkway can be seen in the photo collage above.



A plaque on the exterior of the Blackwell house tells of the island's history. 



Over the course of a century, Blackwell Island became a center for the city's castaways. In 1832, a penitentiary was built for half of what the city initially paid for the island. Seven years later, the New York Lunatic Asylum, overcrowded with some 1,700 patients, was exposed by early undercover journalist Nelly Bly as a place of abuse and misery."  The photo and text above from this website, shows the Welfare Penitentiary in 1932.  


In 1856, a Smallpox Hospital opened on the island, The ruins of this hospital can be seen above.  The imposing gothic structure was emptied of patients in 1886, and was used both as a nurses home as well as The Maternity and Charity Hospital Training School. Other public health and charity institutions built in this period include the Charity Hospital and Alms House Buildings. The city changed the island's name to Welfare Island in 1921, a reflection of the general nature of its use at that time.



More views of the abandoned smallpox hospital.  It looks rather eerie, doesn't it?


This area of the island is now park land and the sign above tells more about the history of the island.




Not only the geese but a small child was also enjoying the sprinklers in the Southpoint Park on the day I visited.



Another pretty park on the island was called the Cherry Tree Walk.



It was a pretty red brick walkway lined with cherry trees located along the shoreline that lead under the Ed Koch/Queensboro Bridge to the southern part of the island.


There were spectacular views of Manhattan from the walkway's vantage point, including a wonderful close up of the United Nations complex.



There are many other fabulous sights of Manhattan skyline from all vantage points of the west side of the island.



From the east side of the island the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens can be seen, including the iconic Pepsi Cola sign.  As you can see many new high rise condos and apartments are also becoming popular styles of housing in this neighborhood.



The traffic on the East River was also interesting to see! The Circle Line Sightseeing boat is in the upper left of the photo collage above; a speed boat in the upper right; a US Coast Guard boat in the lower left and my favorite sighting was a red tug boat, seen in the lower right of the photo collage.


There is one subway stop on Roosevelt Island, the F train, which opened in 1989.  The bicycles above are in front of the station entrance.  It is one of the deepest stations in the New York City Subway, at about 100 feet (30 m) below street level.



Another beautiful landmarked building on Roosevelt Island is The Chapel of the Good ShepherdThe chapel's central location has made it a regular host of religious, governmental, and social functions. In this space, the island's Catholic and Protestant congregations worship, town meetings are held, and instrumental groups perform. Community groups and various support and spiritual groups gather in the chapel.



On the northern most tip of the island is another park called Lighthouse Park, which contains this beautiful little lighthouse.



This fifty foot tall lighthouse was called Blackwell, Welfare or Roosevelt Island Light, according to what era.  It was built in 1872 by inmates of the penitentiary with stone extracted from the island.
The lighthouse was designed by James Renwick, Jr., architect of the Smallpox Hospital and the Smithsonian Institute. The East River channel's huge granite boulders made it very treacherous to navigate so the lighthouse was commissioned as part of a solution for New York City's shipping ports along with an Army Corps of Engineers project to demolish and implode boulders and widen and deepen the channel. Lighthouse Park is now a lovely fishing and barbecue destination on Roosevelt Island.

I really enjoyed visiting Roosevelt Island and learning more about it, and I hope you did too!  It is one of the lesser know gems of New York City, but definitely worth a visit....take the tram!



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61 comments:

pam said...

Wow, great post. The island has quite a varied history.

diane b said...

I always enjoy reading your informative posts. I feel that I have come to know NYC through your eyes as well as my brief visit last year.

Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

All neat pics and interesting history! Love the great lighthouse:@)

Catherine said...

Wow Pat, that was great! Thank you so much for sharing. I enjoyed myself. I hope your move to Colorado is progressing smoothly.

Old Kitty said...

What an amazing place - it's like a haven away from traffic and a most accessible area for people with disabilities!! And it's so pretty and unique - given its eclectic history!

Beautiful! Take care
x

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

It never ceases to amaze me how time seems to change everything. What a unique history. I bet a ride on the tram is fun.
Sam

Snap said...

I learn so much from your posts. Loved this visit to Roosevelt Island. Love the lighthouse! :D

La Petite Gallery said...

Fasinating post. I never knew about this island, I do remember
reading about welfare Island, way back. Great light house to paint..
I love to visit you, it's always a treat.
yvonne

From the Kitchen said...

What an interesting history for this peaceful little island in the heart of the city. I had no idea!

Best,
Bonnie

Mumsy said...

Wow..what a great place to visit, and so many beautiful photos!

Roz said...

Thanks for the tour! I've never been to Roosevelt Island! My parents were just in Manhattan a week ago and as always, loved it. Hope you're having a beautiful fall season! ~ Roz

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I really want to take the tram here Pat - but I'm curious to know if there's anyplace there to have lunch or a cup of coffee and a snack. Did you see anyplace like that?

GailO said...

How nice that Smallpox hospitals are no longer needed!

Thank you so much for taking us along on this tour Pat...if I never make it there myself I will still feel like I have seen it:)

Vee said...

Such a history lesson on this one island that I had not known even existed before you started discussing it. It looks like a charming place and a great place to live if it doesn't have all the hustle and bustle of the city yet is still so close.

Jo May said...

I enjoyed it so much...like all your other great post about NYC and the surroundings...gonna miss our adventures thru your blog to NYC!

Chatty Crone said...

I enjoyed this - and I must say I need to brush up on my geography a bit.

Do most of the people who live there work there?

And I think it's very pretty there. Interesting and lots of history.

Cheryl @ TFD said...

I've really enjoyed reading this post! The photos are just awesome and really makes me long to visit New York. I will come back and read more as I'm slowly getting caught up on things this week after coming home from vacation. Have a wonderful weekend!

Carol said...

I've never been to Roosevelt Island but your post makes me want to visit. Interesting place to live, such history and gorgeous views.

Joe Todd said...

Great post.. I feel like I was there

The French Hutch said...

Hi Pat, awesome photographs and history. The island has sure had its share of misery! It is a beautiful place now...............Sure enjoyed my tour.
Happy Weekend.

~Emily
The French Hutch

Betty (picture circa 1951) said...

Very interesting. The island looks beautiful, but I'm wondering if it's considered a safe place to live? I would think crime would be down because it's not exactly easy to get away. Is there a grocery store on the island?

The Gathering Place said...

The island certainly had an interesting past. How are you moving plans coming along?

Claudia Willison said...

It sounds like I should make Roosevelt Island one of my stops on my next trip to NYC. It sounds very interesting.

Saying 'hello' from my Riesling / Alphabe- Thursday @ ImagesByCW

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What an amazing history! I truly enjoyed reading about Roosevelt Island, Pat. Gorgeous photos too :)

The Tablescaper said...

You bring us to such spectacular places!

Great to have you at Seasonal Sundays.

- The Tablescaper

SwedishCorner ~ DownUnder...Pernilla said...

Interesting post! HBM :)
Greetings from Australia
~Pernilla

Pondside said...

Another great afternoon trip in your part of the world. There are so many interesting places within a bus ride or ferry ride of where you live.

Sarah said...

Wonderful post, Pat. I always enjoy your tours and have learned so much about NY from you. Thanks for always sharing ~ Sarah

eileeninmd said...

Hello Pat, thanks for this great post and the tour if Roosevelt Island. Your have some wonderful views of the city and the island. Thanks for sharing. Have a happy week ahead!

xinex said...

Beautiful photos, Pat! Beautiful views!...Christine

Lavender Cottage said...

Interesting history of the island. The aerial shot shows a number of green spaces which were a wise choice as it does look like every inch has been used.
Judith

SmilingSally said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful blues. I appreciate this history lesson. BTW: the picture with the sprinkler and geese contains a "blue boy."

Happy Blue Monday, Pat.

merrilymarylee said...

I'd definitely take the tram over the 100-ft. deep subway, thank you!

Smallpox hospital is indeed eerie.

This was another wonderful tour! Thank you.

Cafe au lait said...

Wonderful shots.

My blues are here and here.

chubskulit said...

Thanks for this beautiful virtual tour Pat, your images are lovely.

Visiting from Blue Monday.

My BLUE from a garage Sale
As always, your comment will add delight to my day.
Have a great week ahead!
Rose

Gracie O'Tripp said...

Thanks for this post. So very interesting.

Mumsy said...

What a beautiful and gorgeous place! Your photos are just fantastic..

Short and Sweet said...

Thank you for sharing information about Roosevelt Island...I never even knew it existed!

Ann said...

The Lunatic Asylum sounds horrifying!! It looks so nice as a park now. I love all the history of the city, you live in a spectacular place.
ann

podso said...

I wonder if you would like being a tour guide. You are so good and thorough about explaining things and it's all so interesting. I haven't thought about the name Welfare Island in years. It's so good to see how things have been repurposed and made beautiful! Wonderful post,

Ebie said...

Hi Pat! Its been a while since I stopped at your blog, besides I quit blogging for a while. I am so impressed by your perseverance and multi-tasking, you know, your move to Colorado.

Very impressive collection of photos!

I will send you an email regarding a fellow blogger from Denver and who also has a house in Breckenridge.

Houseelf said...

Wonderful place to visit. I hope they have plans to restore the Smallpox Hospital- I like its architecture.

Liza said...

Beautiful photos.

Red Blooms and Red Bricks

Claudia said...

I remember witnessing so many changes there during the 1970's and 1980's (see, there are advantages to being older than dirt). What a lovely journey of the evolution of a unique space.

eJoops said...

So beautiful!

My RUBY
Have a great Tuesday!

maria said...

Beautiful photos. Thanks for the tour! Happy RT2.

Mine's here.

Susie said...

Pat, While in NYC...we took the Circle Line tour at night. I loved it. I have enjoyed your photos so much. It as if you take us on a tour yourself. Smiles to you, Susie

Gary said...

Great post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

edenhills said...

So much history on one little island! I love the lighthouse, chapel and hospital. Great pictures.

Al said...

What a great tour - I'd love to visit this island one day.

SM said...

beautiful photos

Becky Elmuccio said...

What a great tour! I knew nothing about this island and have been to NYC a ton of times. Thanks for sharing!

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

A beautiful and informative tour...as always! We will miss you on location in NYC...but look forward to having you be our tour guide in CO.

Light and Voices said...

Interesting post! Loaded with information for history buffs like me. Liked all the photos including the collage of buildings.
Joyce M

Eclectically Vintage said...

How do I live 30 minutes from NYC and have never been there?! What a fabulous day trip - the tram and lighthouse and little chapel are amazing!

I know what I'll be doing on weekend very soon!
Kelly

Tracy said...

Really enjoyed this image-rich post, Pat... as well as all the history! I don't know, there's a kind of romantic-ruin look to the crumbled-down Smallpox Hospital. Guess it's because I love ivy/vine-clad walls of any kind...LOL! Great to catch up with you! I've been offline a few days having some fun, just now surfacing! :o) Happy Weekend ((HUGS))

Tracy said...

Really enjoyed this image-rich post, Pat... as well as all the history! I don't know, there's a kind of romantic-ruin look to the crumbled-down Smallpox Hospital. Guess it's because I love ivy/vine-clad walls of any kind...LOL! Great to catch up with you! I've been offline a few days having some fun, just now surfacing! :o) Happy Weekend ((HUGS))

Amish Stories said...

Some very nice images of my birth place, and happy Fall to everyone as well. Richard from Amish Stories

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

You know, I have NEVER been there! I have been around the island in a boat and that smallpox hospital shell looks AMAZING (and creepy!) at night. I'll need to take a tram trip for sure.

Annesphamily said...

All your photos are so beautiful. You sure know the history of your city! Always a pleasure to be here.

Alison said...

We have lived on Roosevelt Island for over a year and I just stumbled upon your blog this morning as I googled the Elevated Acre. I am enjoying all your posts about NYC! You're a great photographer and capture the essence beautifully of each place you visit. Thanks for sharing!!!