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Roosevelt Island Historical Society’s Newsletter
2015 Blackwell’s Almanac (click to view)
The Roosevelt Island Historical Society
Tour of the City College of New York Campus
With Tour Leader Dalton Whiteside
Tuesday–September 30, 2014 (rain date October 7)
Our tour will begin at 10:30 a.m., starting at the north end of the campus at the crossing of 141st Avenue, just near the Hamilton Grange National Memorial (at 414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031).
After a stroll by the historic home of our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, we will continue on to City College’s iconic Perpendicular Gothic campus and its subsequent buildings that were later built to house various disciplines of the college. Along our tour, we will visit the Great Hall, Lincoln Corridor, and a Shepard’s grand Reception Room.
Additionally, we will cover the history of several significant buildings that preceded some of the present campus structures, their importance in the community, and untimely ends.
Next, we will arrive at what is sometimes known as the “South Campus” where you will have the opportunity to visit the Architecture Library and view the Spitzer School of Architecture’s newest exhibit on the renowned architect, Antoni Gaudi. Some original models have been brought from Spain especially for this exhibit that highlight his unique works. If the weather holds we can ascend to the building’s roof for great views of the city.
Lastly, we have the wonderful opportunity to explore the newly constructed Science Research Center buildings whose land holds a fascinating history of being the former home of the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart.
To register for this tour e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Fee is $25- for RIHS members and $35- for guests
For more information call (212) 688-4836
(lunch will be optional at local restaurant)
Welfare Island in the Time of Edward Hopper
EDWARD HOPPER’S VIEW OF BLACKWELL ISLAND
The announcement that Edward Hopper’s 1928 painting Blackwell Island would be auctioned at Christie’s on May 23rd has sparked a revival of interest in this work.
The painting is the subject of a lecture by Judith Berdy, President, Roosevelt Island Historical Society, in a program sponsored by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, at the New York Public Library Branch on Roosevelt Island, on Tuesday, May 14, at 6:30 p.m.
The painting features the north end of what is now Roosevelt Island and its dark silhouetted buildings includes the Metropolitan Hospital dome and other hospital buildings. The lecture will incorporate period photographs to explore the context of Hopper’s 1928 work.
Blackwell Island, owned by a private American collector, has frequently been exhibited at leading museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The work has never been auctioned before. The painting is being auctioned by Christie’s on May 23rd and will be on view at Christie’s, 20 Rockefeller Plaza from May 19 to 22, 2013.
The event is FREE and open to the public.
On Friday, September 21st, over 50 members of Plattsburgh State University School Nurse Training Class of 1965 returned to Welfare Island, now Roosevelt Island. This group of students studied not only to be registered nurses but school nurse teachers. They were at Plattsburgh for an intensive four year program that ran all year. They received the equivalent of an RN and teaching degree in what would now take five years to complete.
The students spent their first and last year at Plattsburgh and came to NYC to do practical nursing at Metropolitan Hospital (The Met). By the time the Class of ’65 arrived, The Met had moved to Manhattan. Each day the students were driven from the Central Nurses Residence to The Met, which is located at 97th Street and First Avenue. The second year the students relocated to a residence, Draper Hall, which had been newly built in Manhattan.
The alumni had a tour of The Met on Thursday (9/20/12) and a full day of visiting the hospital and remembering their time there. On Friday (9/21/12), they came to Roosevelt Island where Judith Berdy, RIHS Board President, guided them on a full day tour of the island including Lighthouse Park, Octagon, Main Street, Southpoint Park as well as passing by many of our island landmark structures. Everyone was most impressed with the great views of The Met from Lighthouse Park; where a group photo was taken.
Though little is left of the sites some remembered, the island was most impressive to them and interesting memories were shared among the group. The nurses recollected how they became big city sophisticates and recalled that returning to campus was boring. It seemed that many of the students were busy swallowing goldfish.
A WALK THROUGH SOUTHPOINT PARK
Commentary by Judith Berdy
Photos by Brian Blazak
Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy shares her thoughts and some pictures from opening day at the new Southpoint Park.
Southpoint Park opened today (August 2, 2011) after years in the works. I stopped by briefly to see what has materialized from mounds of debris and acres of weeds. The approximately 7 acre park weaves south from the gate just south of Goldwater Hospital to the southern end of the Smallpox Hospital. The FDR Four Freedoms Park site is south and will open late in 2012.
Just outside the east gates and inside the west gates are cast iron columns salvaged from the City Hospital, which was on the site.
The stone walls (Fordham Gneiss) quarried on the Island and salvaged from the City Hospital form a serpentine low winding bench and/or fence through most of the park area.
Thanks to Alyce Russo, former RIOC Director of Planning, who stored the stones for future use.
Unfortunately the first structure you see is the comfort station, in blue and gray, two colors that have no relation to anything on Roosevelt Island. It is super size and great for school and camp groups.
Wide asphalt paved roads and paths make it easy for vehicles to use the roads. They seem a little wide and overwhelming in some areas.
The hills, which cover tons of rocks now, are gently sloping downwards and kids and teens seemed to love to run up and down them. The plantings are mostly wild flowers and black eyed Susan’s. No fancy lawns or gardens here.
Inter-spaced in the hills are remnants from the old hospital entrance including an orb that once signified the entrance to the Maternity Hospital on the site.
The cul-de-sac that will eventually include the FDR Hope Memorial has a lovely grove of trees surrounding it and overlooking the Smallpox Hospital.
The landmark Smallpox Hospital (not Renwick Ruin) is surrounded by a high fence and unfortunately the weeds and debris have not been removed from around it. This is a pity, since the building should be the showpiece of the park. Hopefully this will be remedied soon.
The landmark Strecker Memorial Laboratory just northeast shines with its wonderful restoration and it is pleasantly placed in a setting befitting this lovely structure.
It is not a cafe, but a power conversion station for the F and M subway lines. Perhaps it is the perfect site for a few tables and a Cappuccino Cart. Modern steel benches dot the area. They look out of place and a bit too modern for the classic site.
It is wonderful to watch the river from paths that were blocked by debris and overgrown vegetation for years. This may not be the High Line, but it is our new connection to the river and our southern tip. Considering all the convolutions the park went through, I am glad it is finally here!
For information on the landmark Smallpox Hospital and Strecker Laboratory go to www.rihs.us.
A friend on the island discovered these 6 photos circa 1968. They show the lsland before any development started in 1970.
Photo 1 The Welfare Island Bridge went directly to the West Road. There was no Main Street. To the south are the Cancer and Neurological Hospitals.
Photo 2 South view of area that now includes PS/IS 217 and Westview
Photo 3 A forlorn and empty Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Next to it is the Good Samaritan German Lutheran Church. The buildings surrounding them were part of the City Home, a home for elderly, sickly and impoverished.
Photo 4 Entwined in the weeds are the three wings of Blackwell House. The north wing was demolished during its 1975 restoration. To the south is the driveway and entrance to the Central Nurses Residence.
Photo 5 Goldwater Memorial Hospital from the east with the now demolished City Hospital to the south. The City Hospital was built from east to west across the island. The walls of the hospital were quarried from the stone on the island.
Photo 6 From the south looking to the island is the Smallpox Hospital. The building to the east of the center of the hospital “H” is Brennan Hall, part of the complex. This building was demolished very soon after this photo was taken. The buildings just north were part of the complex of nursing school and staff housing.