North Brother Island is most famous today from the beautiful photographs of its crumbling state, but its history and secrets are what give the place its mythical status in New York City. With the latest news about a study to explore opening North Brother Island to public access, we’re sharing our favorite secrets of this island in the East River. Many of these secrets are sourced from the great book North Brother Island, The Last Unknown Place in New York City by Christopher Payne and Randall Mason.
North Brother Island Morgue in summer
In 1791, the Two Brothers islands were put for sale at an auction at the Merchants Coffee House, where all business and politics seemed to take place in the early days of the colony. In the print advertisement, it was offered as a “eligible situation for a pilot or a house of entertainment,” due to its location along the river and noted that already extant on the North Brother Island was a “dwelling house, barn, orchard, and a variety of fruit trees, with a quantity of standing fire wood and timber.”