My OBT

What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

Forgotten New York (With Special Guest Star Typhoid Mary)

23 Comments

©Donna Kramer

©Donna Kramer

We are lucky enough to live in Broad Channel, a little fishing village in Queens, New York. Located at the center of a wildlife preserve, Broad Channel is the only inhabited island in Jamaica Bay, and two thirds of our island is part of the sanctuary, as well.

Sometimes referred to as the “Venice of New York,*” most of the homes have private docks, and we get all the benefits (and hazards) of living on the water without the steep NYC prices and property taxes of most waterfront property. During prohibition, Broad Channel and nearby Ruffle Bar were  key locations for rum-running and provided much of the illegal alcohol consumed in NYC. Actually, come to think of it, the Channel is still pretty popular with the drinkers. For all those reasons and more, I love it completely and never want to live anywhere else. If you are interested in learning more about Jamaica Bay, blogger NYCEdges has done a rather nice job of summing up and illustrating its history in two parts (Part 1, Part 2).

(*I more often refer to it as the Staten Island of Queens, which is only funny to New Yorkers who are not from Staten Island)

Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

©Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

There’s another island in New York City I learned about recently that has wildlife AND ruins, so I guess they win the prize for most photogenic. In the Bronx where New York Harbor meets Long Island Sound, there squats the slightly ominous but hauntingly beautiful North Brother Island, which originally housed Riverside Hospital between the 1880s and 1930s. During its use, it housed hundreds of patients with the most communicable diseases; smallpox, typhus, scarlet fever, even leprosy. It was also where the cook Mary Mallon, better known as the infamous “Typhoid Mary,” was forcibly quarantined for the last 23 years of her life, and where she eventually died. The first known healthy carrier of the disease, although she inadvertently caused at least 47 illnesses and 3 deaths, Mary asserted until her death that she had been unjustly detained. Rumor has it she and other unhappy former residents of the island haunt it still. This place just gets better and better!

“North Brother Island has been used to house things that the city would rather not think about.”

The island is now off limits, so the only way to get there is to sneak on with a kayak or small boat. Hmmm . . .

Epilogue: Nuts. I totally forgot today I was going to try “Wordless Wednesday,” the blog challenge where your entire post is visual rather than textual. Maybe I’ll instead invent “Stick a Sock In It Thursday” or “Shut the Fork Up Friday.”

 

Ian Ference

©Ian Ference

Ian Ference

©Ian Ference

Katie Holten

©Katie Holten

Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

©Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

©Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

©Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

©Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

©Christopher Payne/Bonni Benrubi Gallery

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

23 thoughts on “Forgotten New York (With Special Guest Star Typhoid Mary)

  1. The pictures are really cool!! Love them!

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  2. Get the kayak out….I’ll pack lunch! Very interesting and your home island sounds lovely! Always great to live in a unique place~

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  3. I grew up in Brooklyn, and I used to hang out in Broad Channel occasionally. I also lived in Sheepshead Bay for a while. I love those places that retain their fishing village qualities in the middle of New York.

    Great history lesson, by the way. And I love the pictures. 🙂

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  4. Spectacular and eerie. Thank you for sharing!

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  5. I’ve lived in NY forever nearing hearing of Broad Channel. The pictures are amazing…love history it was very appreciated.

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  6. You remind me of the great diversity we enjoy in our city. Thank you! xoM

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  7. I grew up on LI–there are so many ghosts there. My Dad told me the history of N Brother, and it used to give me the thrilling creeps as a kid. Fun to be reminded to do the same to my own, thanks.

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  8. This is really beautiful, Donna. Reminds me of the unrestored parts of Ellis Island. You can really feel other presences there. BTW, I really enjoy your blog. You are a very engaging writer.

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    • Thank you, Katie! Those nuns taught us well! I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been to Ellis Island, but if it’s anything like this place, I’ve got to go!

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  9. I was born on Broad Channel and still have contact with people who also grew up there. My father was the original Smitty on 9th Road and my blog is connected to the Broad Channel Historical Society website, thanks to Barbara Toborg! I miss that special island and hope to make it back before I pass on. We need more sites mentioning her and her special people!

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    • How lovely! I can’t imagine how you ever left. I knew I was home the first time the street flooded. (I’m a little simple, I guess.)

      Hope you do make it back for a visit. Let me know if you’re coming. We’ll knock one back at Grassy’s!

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      • My father used to work at Grassy Point some times, especially since my god-father’s brother owned it then. It is so great to hear about the place!

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