Spotlight: Roosevelt Island

What do you know about Roosevelt Island? You might think that there isn’t much history behind this island because it isn’t talked about like other boroughs but in fact there is.

Roosevelt Island
Nisian Hughes

Roosevelt Island is one of the many tiny islands that surround Manhattan. The skyline view is one of the biggest draws of visiting Roosevelt Island. This is one of the best spots to sit and enjoy one of the best views of the NYC skyline, there are paths along the river where you can enjoy the skyline if you are wanting to take a jog, leisurely stroll or just sit on a bench and collect your thoughts with an outstanding view.

If you are wanting to visit and not have to deal with traffic on or off the island the best mode of transportation is the metro system, hope on the J line and it will take you right into the heart of Roosevelt Island. Now not far from the train stop where you’d get off, is the Blackwell House. The Blackwell house was built in 1796 for the island’s owners, the Blackwells, and eventually was turned over to the city to be public property. Since this is one of the oldest standing buildings on the island it was named on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, so if you are a big history buff this is definitely a place you should check out.

Other cool locations to visit if you are a history nerd is the Renwick Ruins over on the Southern side. These are the ruins of an old hospital from the 1800s where those infected with Smallpox were sent to be quarantined to ensure the rest of the patients at the local hospital weren’t exposed and then infected by the Smallpox outbreak. This hospital was in use from 1856 till the late 1950s and was the site where the smallpox vaccine was developed and tested until released to the United States. Visiting here is like visiting a cemetery, it is slightly eerie in its dark history but beautiful all the same for the architectural structure.

If you are into the art scene another fantastic place for you to stop by is the Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association which is in a gallery that is run by the community. There is an annual festival that is always great to check out if you are in the area in the fall.

Tucked away on the far Southern end of the island is the FDR Four Freedoms Park. This is a memorial to the island’s namesake (though this was not the original namesake as you might have gathered from the information about the Blackwell house). You can visit the Roosevelt island lighthouse which was designed by the same architect as the Renwick Ruins/hospital, James Renwick Jr.

If you don’t want to spend your entire day walking from place to place check out the Red Bus which is a free bus that will transport you around the island – save your energy for the good stuff and enjoy a stress-free ride along the way.


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