In a city whose history dates back to the 1600s, every day is an opportunity to discover another mind-blowing piece of historical trivia. Many of New York City’s secrets have been covered up and forgotten for decades.

Renwick Smallpox Hospital

Located on the southern end of Roosevelt Island, this landmark structure is an icon of New York City. Built in 1854, it was the first major U.S. hospital dedicated to the care of victims of smallpox. The gothic revival structure was designed by the renowned architect James Renwick, Jr., architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

The original hospital opened in 1856 and had a rectangular footprint that measured 104 feet by 45 feet. It was situated on the southern end of the island at the water’s edge, was three stories tall, and was constructed of granite gneiss quarried from the island.

Secert NYC Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island
Secert NYC: Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island

The building had magnificent architectural detailing:  a light-filled tower with recessed arches supported by corbels sat at the central roofline, a smaller cupola was positioned just above the main entry, a large single-story porch crowned with a bay window marked the entrance, and throughout were crenelated parapets, pointed arches, and mullioned windows. The hospital was managed by New York City and could house one hundred patients at a time. It provided health services for all — charity cases were housed on the first floor and private cases were located on the upper floors.

In 1875, New York City government asked that the Sisters of Charity at St. Vincent’s Hospital take over management of the Smallpox Hospital. The building’s name would change from the Smallpox Hospital to Riverside Hospital. It was given the name Riverside because it was entirely surrounded by views of the East River and because the hospital began to serve a larger body of the sick patients.

Secret NYC Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island
Secret NYC: Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island

In 1886 Riverside Hospital closed. The building was stripped of its hospital beds and surgical rooms and was converted to a nursing school called the Home for the Nurses of the Maternity and Charity Hospital Training School. The southern and northern wings of the building were added to provide additional classrooms, dormitories, training wards, and laboratories to the resident nursing students and staff.

In the 1950s, the structure was abandoned and has been uninhabited since. Over the last sixty-five years, the building has become a ruin.

Today, the building’s roof no longer exists, the interiors have been stripped of floor slabs, and stairwells and the windows are no longer intact. What exists of the building is largely its shell. Remnants of its original architectural detailing including crenellation on the roofline and parapets, the cupola and porch at the building’s entry, and nearly all of the pointed arches at the windows remain. Unfiltered light streams in from overhead and plants now grow among the rubble at the building’s core. The building is fenced off from the public and much of the shell has been braced with steel shoring.

Secret NYC Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island
Secret NYC: Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island

The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and was then added to the New York State Register of Historic Places in 1980. In 1976, the building was designated a New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.


North Brother Island

Less than one mile from Manhattan — one of the priciest and most densely populated places in the world — exists a little-known island that people abandoned nearly 55 years ago. From the 1880s to the 1960s, thousands of people called North Brother Island home. It was used primarily as a quarantine hospital in the 1880s through World War II, when housing units were built for returning soldiers.

Secret NYC North Brother Island
Secret NYC: North Brother Island

It quarantined patients with communicable diseases, including Typhoid Mary, who bore the unfortunate distinction of being the United States’ first documented asymptomatic carrier of  the bacteria that causes typhoid fever. She was confined to the island for over two decades until she died there in 1938. The hospital closed shortly thereafter.

Secret NYC North Brother Island
Secret NYC: North Brother Island

The hospital was reopened after the Second World War, first to house war veterans and later as a treatment for heroin addicts. In 1963, it closed its doors for good and has been left to decay ever since.

Now a bird sanctuary for herons and other wading shorebirds, 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, and a dense forest conceals the ruined hospital buildings.


33 Thomas Street

The former AT&T Long Lines Building at 33 Thomas Street is a 550 foot tall skyscraper in the Borough of Manhattan, New York, United States. It stands on the east side of Church Street, between Thomas and Worth Streets, in the Civic Center neighborhood of New York City. The building is an example of the Brutalist architectural style with its flat concrete slab facade. The building is able to survive nuclear fallout, and exist off-grid for up to two weeks without issue.

Secret NYC 33 Thomas Street
Secret NYC: 33 Thomas Street

But the fortified skyscraper was not only made to safeguard critical telecommunications equipment. Some believe it also houses equipment for controversial government data collection and wire tapping. If that’s the case then it would be a vital location for the NSA’s controversial surveillance program, which has allegedly spied on at least 38 countries, including allies.

The program has reportedly also spied on communications to and from the UN, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Top-secret NSA documents indicate that the NSA has indeed set up a site, codenamed ‘Titanpointe,’ in the building.

The FBI field office is located two blocks from the Long Lines Building. There are parking bays outside the windowless skyscraper marked ‘AWM,’ a code denoting federal agencies.

The building also has a satellite dish, which is notable because the NSA documents link Titanpointe to the Skidrowe program, which intercepts satellite data including emails, chats, Skype calls, passwords, and internet browsing histories.


Kings Park Psychiatric Center

An hour drive from Manhattan you can see what is left from Kings Park Psychiatric Center. Known by “The Psych Center”, it is a former state-run psychiatric hospital located in Kings Park, New York. It operated from 1885 until 1996, when the State of New York closed the facility, releasing its few remaining patients or transferring them to the still-operational Pilgrim Psychiatric Center.

Secret NYC Kings Park Psychiatric Center
Secret NYC: Kings Park Psychiatric Center

Built on a sprawling 800 acres, KPPC quickly grew into a self-sufficient farming operation, complete with its own railroad spurs for the delivery of coal and supplies. The hospital campus contained over 100 buildings, some of which were organized into groups that functioned together. By 1900, KPPC housed 2,697 patients and 454 staff members; this meant that the population of KPPC at the time was greater than the entire population of the neighboring town of Smithtown. It eventually grew to such a massive size, with patient count peaking in 1954 with 9,300 patients, that it began to represent many of the problems that its creation was supposed to solve.

Full of looming buildings and stark architecture, KPPC today stands at a contrast to the beauty of the environment surrounding it. The waterside portion of the former KPPC is now a protected part of Nissequogue River State Park, and the entire site is located only minutes from the local fishing and boating spot at the end of Old Dock Road. It’s possible to see the nearby ocean and Nissequogue River from several locations within former KPPC grounds.

Secret NYC Kings Park Psychiatric Center
Secret NYC: Kings Park Psychiatric Center

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