An aerial view of Roosevelt Island, before demolition of Goldwater Hospital. Photo by Mathew Lloyd/RooseveltIslander
We’ve written a lot of articles on New York City’s islands, both abandoned and in use. While the city itself is interesting and filled with cool history and things to do, its islands, such as North Brother’s Island, Hart Island, Governors Island, and Rikers Island, also have some intriguing sights. Now, it’s time to rediscover New York City’s Roosevelt Island – a residential, 2-mile long island packed with interesting secrets.
A map of Blackwell’s Island, now Roosevelt Island. Image via 4girlsandaghost
Though Roosevelt Island is now named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, people called quite a few different things before this. The Lenape tribe, who first inhabited the island, called it “Minnehanonck.” According to the New York Times, this name is commonly thought to be translated to “Long Island” or “It’s nice to be on the island.”
When the Dutch purchased Roosevelt Island from the Native Americans in 1637, they renamed it “Varken Eylandt,” or “Hogs Island” for all the hogs raised there. A little while later, a British captain named John Manning lived on the island in shame after shortly surrendering New York to the Dutch, so that it became known as “Manning’s Island.”
The name changed to “Blackwell’s Island” in 1686, when Captain Manning’s stepdaughter inherited the island and married Robert Blackwell. During this namesake, it became home to institutions such as a prison, lunatic asylum, and a smallpox hospital, all of which will be discussed later in this list.
In 1921, the city renamed the island “Welfare Island” when it started reforming the area, establishing hospitals. Finally, in 1973 it became “Roosevelt Island,” after Franklin Delano Roosevelt.