When the Department of Charities and Correction was formed in 1860, it greatly expanded the city’s healthcare- and reform-oriented penal institutions. The Pavilion on Hart Island was one of several lunatic asylums and charity hospitals at various locations in the greater New York area, and today it is the only 19th century building still standing on Hart Island. It was one of the first asylums constructed during Thomas Brennan’s time as Commissioner after he opened the morgue at Bellevue Hospital. Thus, the structure stands as a reminder of the island’s relationship to Bellevue Hospital. At the time, there was precedent for institutions relating to the healthcare and penal systems to be positioned in proximity to one another and to places of burial. In the 18th century, City Hall Park in lower Manhattan was host to an almshouse, gaol, workhouse and dispensary, as well as a burial ground.
Image©2004 Melinda Hunt courtesy The Hart Island Project