Hart Island Hospital
The first burial on Hart Island was that of Louisa Van Slyke, who died at age 24 from tuberculosis. In the 20th century, this building housed tubercular and chronically-ill patients. Starting in 1950, it was used to house homeless men suffering from alcohol addiction. The Committee on Alcoholism of the City’s Welfare and Health Council set up a clinic to provide physical and mental rehabilitation as an alternative to multiple short stays for disorderly conduct on Rikers Island. The clinic had space for 2,000 patients plus medical staff. In 1952, the City set up a court for alcoholics on Rikers Island and sentenced men to undergo treatment for one to six months on Hart Island. From 1967 to 1976, the building was used by Phoenix House for drug treatment under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Judges could commit addicts to medical treatment on Hart Island for up to five years. A phoenix can be seen painted on the side of the building. Phoenix House was ordered to vacate Hart Island in 1976 after ferry service was reduced during the city’s fiscal crisis.
Image ©2018-Greg Gulbransen courtesy The Hart Island Project