Who doesn’t love a fairy tale? Even pragmatic New Yorkers could not resist referencing the architecture of European nobility in the earlier days of the city. While many country mansions and manor homes outside of the city have a more overt reference to castle architecture, here in New York City there’s quite enough fairy dust to keep us curiously looking for more castles in our daily commute.
1. Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital
A good number of castle-like architectural structures in New York City can be traced to engineer James Renwick, Jr., who was born in Manhattan. He was not formally trained as an architect but was heavily influenced by his travels abroad. His Smithsonian Institution Building in Washington D.C., is actually nicknamed “The Castle,” and spurred the Gothic revival movement in American architecture. In New York City, Renwick may be most famous for St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, but his landmarked ruin on Roosevelt Island, built originally as a smallpox hospital may be the most castle-like.
This hospital was only in operation for nineteen years, from 1856 to 1875, located here because Roosevelt Island was originally considered far enough away from civilization to quarantine smallpox patients. It was later used as a nurses dormitory and was abandoned by the 1950s. It is the only landmarked ruin in New York City, and you can visit the site en route to FDR Four Freedoms Park.