The Renwick Smallpox Hospital opened in 1856. Cases of smallpox had gone up in the 1850s in NYC, and smallpox killed 25-30% of the people who got it.
Rich people were usually treated at home (which contributed to the spread of smallpox) and poor people were treated in wooden shacks along the East River called “deadhouses.”
Medical professionals realized that people with smallpox should be isolated to prevent the spread of the disease.
Since it was isolated–literally an island–Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island) was an ideal place to keep contagious patients.
The smallpox hospital on Blackwell’s Island was built in the Gothic Revival style, out of blue stone quarried on the island. It cost $38,000 to build, which was very cheap at the time.
To learn how it ended up as a ruin, check out the episodes about the Renwick Smallpox Hospital; search Buried Secrets Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts (+ link in bio.)