Articles Tagged ‘island history’

History: Island’s Convalescent Camp

In 1937, hospital patients who returned to their residences in tenements were hard-pressed to recover from serious  illnesses, due to miserable living conditions in their homes and neighborhoods.

Dr. S. S. Goldwater, New York City’s Hospital Commissioner, conceived the idea of a day camp for these patients, to be located on Welfare Island – today’s Roosevelt Island.  From 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., participants received nourishing meals and attended sessions in arts and crafts, occupational therapy, and sports, along with other fresh-air activities.  They were transported to and from the camp, located in what is now Manhattan Park, by a ferry at East 79th Street. From 1939 to the late 1940s, the camp’s services saved thousands of lives.

Historian Judith Berdy will recount the little-known history of the convalescent camp, its construction, patients, and the fate of its structures, in a lecture on Dr. S. S. Goldwater and the Convalescent Camp sponsored by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, at the New York Public Library Branch on Roosevelt Island, on Tuesday, January 14, at 6:30 p.m.

The event is free, and is  the first in a series of spring lectures sponsored by the Historical Society.

The Historical Society promotes awareness of our Island’s unique story and pursues preservation of its landmarks and artifacts. For more information, please visit

History: Penitentiary For NYC Women Here

Welfare Island’s prison for women is the setting for Island Girls, a play being presented by Theater for the New City (see ComingUp, page 5).

The play, set in 1927, is running now, but a performance to benefit the Roosevelt Island Historical Society will take place Sunday, January 19.  Tickets are available from RIHS by phoning 212-688-4836 or by checking in at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The plot of the play makes a newly-minted social worker confront her biases amid women of varying ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds, all of whom have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Island Has Long and Rich History of Medical Advancement

Today, the role of antiseptics and good hygiene in preventing the spread of disease and infection is considered a cornerstone of medicine. And it’s often taken for granted that patients with severe or chronic injuries should receive physical rehabilitation. What’s less known is that both these practices, and several other medical advancements, originated on Roosevelt Island.

RI Day Nursery Turns 40

The year was 1976. Gerald Ford was President. Abe Beame was mayor of New York. The pop chart was packed with hits from the Bay City Rollers, Barry Manilow, Diana Ross and Paul Simon (extra points to those of you who can guess the song titles popular that year). Taxi Driver, Carrie and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest hit the theaters. And the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery (RIDN) was started by a group of Island parents seeking quality, community-based, early education, for their two-, three- and four-year olds.

RIVAA Celebrates Its Past, Looks to Future

Sixteen years ago, after nine Island-related victims perished in the 9/11 attacks, the newly formed Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association (RIVAA) expressed their emotions using art, in an empty window of the Rivercross building. Several months later, with the support of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), the organization received permission to use the then empty, former Bigelow Pharmacy space at 527 Main Street for a group exhibit.

Snapshot of History: Smallpox Hospital

Roosevelt Island’s half-dozen landmarks give it a special place in the history of New York City, health care, and health education.  The city’s only landmarked ruin, the Smallpox Hospital, has a rich history.

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