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Hidden Gems


New York City (NYC)
Renwick Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island

Renwick Smallpox Hospital
Photo Credit: pixgood.com

The Renwick Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island was built between 1854 and 1856, to deal with New York City's smallpox epidemic. The Hospital was designed by James Renwick Jr. The lower floors were used to treat charity cases, but the top floors were reserved for paying customers. The original structure was divided in 29 wards with various sizes: the smallest holding up to 13 beds and the largest up to 39 beds. The Renwick hospital was run by the Commission of Charities and Correction until 1875, when the Board of Health took over. The Board of Health converted the hospital into a multifunctional facility which served as home for the nurses, as well as maternity and charity hospital training school. Between 1903 and 1905 north and south wings of similar design were added to the building.

By the 1950's many of the building facilities were deemed inadequate, and as a result were abandoned. After a decade of quiet and decline, New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission deemed the site worthy of preservation. In 1975, attempts were made by Giorgio Cavaglieri to preserve the facade of the building. The remnants of these efforts can be seen on the balconies that have wooden timbers as support, as well as the scaffolding in the entrance hall. Since 1995, the New-Gothic architecture of Renwick Hospital has been illuminated by lights. In 2007, a part of the northern wing collapsed; Three years later plans were approved to revitalize the Hospital. The $4.5 million project, in addition to stabilizing the hospital, will also build a memorial for Franklin D. Roosevelt and create a 14 acre public park. Today, the Renwick Smallpox Hospital can be seen from beyond the fences that enclose the structure.

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