Lobby of Bellevue Hospital

Bellevue Hospital in Kips Bay, officially NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, is one of the largest hospitals in the United States. The hospital has achieved many breakthroughs throughout its history, from being one of the first to employ ambulance services to having the earliest maternity ward. Bellevue Hospital has contributed massively to the development of modern medicine but also has a dark history. At one point, the name “Bellevue” was often used to refer to psychiatric hospitals in the 1800s. The hospital made important developments in treating epidemics, from yellow fever to AIDS, and saved the lives of people from all walks of life, from the general public to presidents and celebrities. Here, we take a look back at the hospital’s long history and pull out the top 10 secrets of Bellevue Hospital!

1. Bellevue Hospital used to operate floating quarantine boats

During the tuberculosis crisis of the 19th century, Bellevue Hospital transformed ferry barges into floating wards. The floating “hospitals” were reserved for those in the early stages of tuberculosis, prioritizing indoor spaces for the many patients suffering from more severe symptoms. Poorer patients who were turned away from the barges would change their names and appearance to try for help at other facilities. It was believed that fresh air could help cure patients of tuberculosis, a disease that many believed at the time was genetic.

Once the disease was determined to be contagious in 1892, many hospitals like Bellevue would be built incorporating outdoor balconies or tall windows, such as a now-abandoned facility south of Buffalo. The floating hospital idea was replaced in part by the relocation of patients to sanatoriums on the edges of the city, such as the now-abandoned North Brother Island. Bellevue was the first hospital to report that tuberculosis was a preventable disease.