This view of Midtown Manhattan in 1932 is one of my favorite photographs: link [large size warning, 5359×3779px]. For my tastes, this period represents the apogee of (American) architecture. For reference, here’s a modern photo from a similar location: link [large size warning, 3872×2592px].
As well as being an opportunity to share a great photograph, I also have a question: I’ve often wondered what a particular building was on Roosevelt Island in the 1932 photograph (in the middle of the river, top right). The building is centrally positioned in the area on the near side of the bridge and it has four conical turrets, making it look a bit like a castle.
From reading about historical land use on the island, I’m presuming that it was perhaps a hospital or penitentiary. Anyone know what it was? Here are another couple of images of it: 1, 2.
I believe you’re looking at City Hospital.
I think that’s it. Google search brings up another image. They don’t make 'em like that any more!
Just as an aside, I have always been fascinated with Roosevelt Island because of its history but it is still an oddity even today. It is technically part of Manhattan but a world away from it at the same time. The whole island is only 800 feet wide at its widest point and about 2 miles long and has a population of less than 10,000 people. They are turning some of those old structures into upscale condos now but the island is still isolated despite being right next to the most densely urban environment in the U.S.
It only has one (terrible) supermarket and very few restaurants or bars or many other stores for that matter. However, the best way to reach it is by the Roosevelt Island Tramway (skycar) which is about is about the coolest commute you can have. I have already decided that if I was ever forced to live in Manhattan because of some terrible crime I committed, Roosevelt Island is my loophole. It has lots of green space, it is quiet and has a fascinating history.
Google StreetViewhas good coverage of it if you want to see what things look like today at ground level. They still have some ruins of those very unusual institutions they used to house people in the middle of the East River.
Yes, it’s an interesting island, described as “New York’s former ‘City of Asylums’” in one online article.
Actually, it’s possible the building I’m interested in identifying might not be City Hospital - at least not its main building, although it could be part of the hospital complex.
From what I can gather, on the 1932 photograph right at the tip of the island on the right (South) there is the Renwick Smallpox Hospital which still exists in ruins and is currently being stabilized so that it can be opened to the public.
To the left of that in the photograph is a complex of buildings. The largest of these buildings appears to match this old photograph of City Hospital. It looks to have been taken from the other (North) side of the building compared with the big photo, as one can see in the right of the photo the cupola of the tower behind.
According to wikipedia, “the prison closed in 1935, and the hospital was closed in 1957” and “the hospital was demolished in 1994”.
So was the building I’m interested in the prison mentioned above? The location of the building is beneath what was the Goldwater Memorial Hospital. This was opened in 1939, so presumably this castle-like building of my O.P. question was demolished before then. Its appearance with turrets and battlements would make some sense for a prison - I’ve seen other prisons of the period with similar stylistic motifs - although it does seem a bit spectacular for such a purpose.
Okay, after digging around some more, I think I’ve identified it as Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary. It is described here:
This is the best photo I’ve found of the central turreted building.