3. North Brother Island Served as Post-WWII Housing for Veterans
North Brother Island had declined in importance as a medical institution as scientific advancements and new ideas on care emerged in the years leading up to World War II. Faced with the housing crisis following the war, the government leased land and buildings on North Brother Island to house returning veterans. It should also be noted that after World War I, North Brother also treated veterans with drug addictions. A ferry system was set up to bring veterans to the city’s universities to complete their education or for work. A small village emerged, replete with amenities like a grocery store, library, movie theater – not too dissimilar from Governors Island later which had a Burger King and a motel. About 500 people lived on North Brother Island and Mason writes that the “island population may have reached 1,500 at its peak in the late 1940s.”
Those who lived here during this time, some whom came to speak to Christopher Payne and share their mementos after the release of his book North Brother Island, The Last Unknown Place in New York City say it was an idyllic time. This was not to last however.