Map Submission: Isaiah Koeninger

Formerly known as Blackwell's Island and later Welfare Island, Roosevelt Island is a very small island in New York City's East River. It measures only .23 square miles in area. Though it is small, this island has an important history associated with it, one of mistreatment and a significant amount of pain. This small island was purchased in 1828. Just four years later, in 1832, a penitentiary was built. This created a physical barrier between the prisoners and the mainland. Strangely, this island wasn't just for criminals. Instead, there were also workhouses, an almshouse, a general hospital, and a hospital for those deemed "incurables". The island was also home to a smallpox hospital for a brief time. The people referred to as "incurables" at the time were those that had chronic and/or severe conditions that were not likely to be cured. This category included those with mental and/or physical disabilities as well as those with mental illnesses. In 1839, the New York City Lunatic Asylum was built on the island. This was the asylum that Nellie Bly was famously admitted to after faking mental illness. Her book Ten Days in a Madhouse tells the story of her discoveries and chronicles the awful conditions that the inhabitants were subjected to. After the story was published, it forced this asylum as well as others to consider more humane treatment for their patients. The island was renamed Welfare Island in 1921 and then renamed once more to Roosevelt Island in 1973. 

Today, this island is not only open to the public, but it also has a small population of its own. As of 2010, this island is home to 11,661 people, though that number is estimated to have grown since. Most of the buildings that were originally on this island are nothing more than ruins now, but the entrance to the New York City Lunatic Asylum is still standing. It's marked by an octagonal tower, which is the only part of that structure that is still intact. This island has important historical contexts for multiple groups of people including, but not limited to, women and people with disabilities.


“Blackwell's Island (Roosevelt Island), New York City (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior,

 “Roosevelt Island.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Oct. 2021, 


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