As with many forgotten places, few people—even New York locals—know that North Brother Island exists. While the island was once home to the famed Typhoid Mary, it has since been overtaken by Mother Nature’s gentle yet unyielding hand. A dot on the East River that’s nestled between Bronx and Rikers Island, North Brother Island is now like the world’s other abandoned locales: overrun with lush trees, ivy and tall grasses, a mere shadow of its former self.
Although North Brother Island was inhabited for less than a century, it has a rich history as the home to various hospitals and facilities. In 1885, Riverside Hospital was constructed on the island as a place to treat smallpox patients and keep them from the general public. Since North Brother Island is only accessible via boat, it was an ideal location for quarantining sick individuals, as the East River kept outsiders at bay.
Typhoid Mary (aka Mary Mallon), who infected more than 50 people with typhoid fever, was one of the hospital’s most infamous residents. Mallon was one of the first “healthy carriers” of the virus, and she fought hard to maintain her freedom, despite infecting numerous individuals in the process. She was eventually forced to live on North Brother Island quarantined, where she had a small bungalow that was separate from the main hospital building, and where she died.