Abandoned Renwick Smallpox Hospital, New York

renwick-smallpox-hospital-new-york-abandoned (Image: Brian Clift, cc-3.0)

The eerie abandonment known as Renwick Smallpox Hospital has the distinction of being the only ruin in New York City listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Opened in 1856 on Roosevelt Island, NYC, the 100-bed hospital was latterly known as the Maternity and Charity Hospital Training School.


renwick-smallpox-hospital-new-york-abandoned-3 (Images: SchizoformJazz Guy; cc-3.0)

New York City, fueled by high levels of immigration throughout the 19th century, was prone to large outbreaks of smallpox despite the availability of a vaccine. Significant efforts were made to quarantine patients and Gothic Revival-style Renwick Smallpox Hospital was contructed in an isolated location on the south side of the island, which was originally named Blackwells Islands and later Welfare Island.


renwick-smallpox-hospital-new-york-abandoned-5 (Images: Jazz Guy (top, bottom), cc-3.0)

The buildings of the Charity Hospital and associated nurses school closed in the 1950s and soon fell into disrepair. Plans were made to reinforce the walls of the crumbling ruin as early as the 1970s. But it wasn’t until 2007 when part of the north wing collapsed that plans to conserve the 14-acre site gained some urgency. Following a $4.5 million effort to stabilize the remaining walls, Renwick Smallpox Hospital, the ruins of which have been illuminated nightly since 1995, will be open to the public.

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