Walk Through the Fascinating Medical History of Roosevelt Island

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Join this walking tour exploring the medical history of Roosevelt Island. Hear about the research facilities, maternity hospital and rehabilitation center that were groundbreaking in their fields. 

Led by Judith Berdy, president of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, this 90 minute walking tour tells the history of the abandoned hospitals, lunatic asylum and laboratories on the island and their role in the health of New York.

Roosevelt Island, formerly Blackwell’s Island (and later Welfare Island), has had many layers of medical history. From the construction of the almshouses in the 1830’s onward, the island has housed the ill, displaced, criminals and unwanted poor of the city.

Visitors to the island in years past included Charles Dickens and Nellie Bly, who wrote of the horrendous conditions the “insane” inmates suffered in the first municipal asylum in the country. For years the City of New York operated hospitals, almshouses, convalescent camps, and rehabilitation institutions on this island.

The island now houses a thriving community of over 14,000 apartment dwellers in the area where once the poorest and most needy were homed.


  • This tour will last approximately 90 minutes and starts promptly at 11am
  • All areas are accessible. As this is a walking tour please wear appropriate footwear.
  • The tour starts from the Roosevelt Island Historical Society Visitor Center
  • Advance registration is required for this event

Event Detail

09/08/2019 11:00 am
09/08/2019 12:30 pm