Posts Tagged ‘Animals’

Concrete Jungle Cats – The Abandoned Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital

Posted: June 29, 2022 by kingleser in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Castle, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Forts, Abandoned Hospital, Abandoned Island, Abandoned Massachusetts, abandoned new england, Abandoned New Hampshire, Abandoned New York, Abandoned Park, Abandoned Pennsylvania, Abandoned Places, Abandoned Prison, Abandoned Rhode Island, Abandoned Tower, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Vermont, Abandoned Wonders, Art, Beaches, Bird Watching, Birds, Children's Hospital, Closed, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, fire, Forgotten, Forts, Ghosts, Haunting, Hiking, History, Information, lost, Movies, Mystery, nature, New York, Ocean View, photography, Preserved Ruin, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Stories, time, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
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Concrete Jungle Cats

The Abandoned Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Hello, New York City. It’s been a long time. Too long, in fact. And while we personally haven’t seen you since the start of the pandemic, this is your first appearance on our site. We’ve covered abandoned places in Hartford, Boston, and Philadelphia. But we’ve never done something in the City that Never Sleeps. I guess it was just a matter of time, I suppose. We just happened to be in town for the Tribeca Film Festival supporting a movie I was in. I figured, what the Hell? Let’s find something derelict to cover for the website. But the funny thing is abandoned places are actually pretty hard to come by in New York City. Especially around Manhattan. Given the property values and the high demand for space in the ever growing metropolis, abandoned places never stay that way for long. A business may go under, or a service may lose its funding, but their grounds are usually repurposed and redeveloped very quickly. Some even become tourist attractions. There were definitely a few more interesting places we could’ve covered in the city. But since we were far from home and there to promote a movie, we kind of played things a little safe this time. And besides, this is the place that spoke to us the most.

And so allow me to introduce you to this quarter’s subject: the abandoned Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital. Also known as the Renwick Smallpox Hospital, after its architect James Renwick Jr. It is located on Roosevelt Island, formerly known as Blackwell’s Island and Welfare Island, which is a long and narrow piece of land in the middle of New York City’s East River. The hospital was first opened in 1856. Its main purpose was to fight large outbreaks of smallpox by quarantining patients, mostly poor immigrants, in this more secluded area of the city. But this was not to last. Due to patient overcrowding, it was eventually converted into the Maternity and Charity Hospital Training School, in partnership with the nearby City Hospital. Also located on Roosevelt Island. For a few decades more, this old gothic beauty served her new purpose. But with the changing times and the island’s isolation, the facility eventually fell into disrepair and was forced to close its doors for good almost one hundred years after its opening. For years, the grounds slow succumbed to their abandonment as the buildings collapsed and wild ivy took over. The ruins reside in what is now known as Southpoint Park on Roosevelt Island.

See, if this place were anywhere else, it would just be an interesting looking ruin. Nothing more. But there are two things that set the abandoned smallpox hospital out from all other places nearby. One: it is the only still standing ruin within the city limits to be listed with the National Register of Historic Places. And two: the Wildlife Freedom Foundation. For reasons yet to be explained, Roosevelt Island has become a haven for New York’s feral cat population. Some are believed to be strays who have found their way across the river. Others are said to have been dumped there by their cruel owners who no longer want them. But whatever the reasons, there is now a small population of cats residing here. And their base of operations just happens to be the abandoned Smallpox Hospital. In 2005, a group of volunteers came together to start the Wildlife Freedom Foundation. They worked to spay, neuter, and take care of the feral cat population as best as they could. A small sanctuary has been created right outside the hospital grounds where the cats are able to come and go as they please, with valiant volunteers providing them with food and shelter. They even adopt out cats that have been successfully rehabilitated.

Since Roosevelt Island is, in fact, an island, there are only a few ways to get to it. There is a bridge for vehicles coming in from Queens. There is a single Subway stop. There is the NYC Ferry System. And there is the historic Roosevelt Island Tram, which carries visitors across the East River in big red gondolas. We, of course, chose the tram. Unfortunately, one of us is afraid of heights. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not me. Luckily Lassie was a real trooper going across the whole five minute ride. The abandoned smallpox hospital resides on the southern side of the island. Though the island provides a free shuttle service, we decided to make the trek to the abandoned hospital on foot. After a short walk, we eventually came upon the ruins. The ornate stone structure still retains its strong gothic feel, even whilst covered head to toe in ivy. It is also almost completely sealed in with chain link fencing. Almost, that is. Inside, the floors are all gone. Certain doorways and windows have been boarded up with archaic plywood. The bright summer sun pours in through the roof like a joyful flood. There’s not too much to see here. But what is there to see is really quite interesting. Especially with the bright Manhattan skyline as a backdrop.

It didn’t take long for us to see the first wild cat. Though they are very difficult to photograph, they are easy to spot. They dart in and amongst the underbrush near and within the grounds of the abandoned hospital. After finishing up with our investigation, we stopped over at the nearby Roosevelt Island Cat Sanctuary. Though the volunteers were quite busy, they did graciously let us in to meet the cats and tell us a little more about their program. They currently have over twenty cats under their care, though we were told the cats spend most of their time within the abandoned hospital “doing their investigations.” And it turns out, the cats aren’t the only guests of the Wildlife Freedom Foundation currently residing on the island. A large congregation of Canadian Geese, many of whom had injuries, were nesting in and around the grounds. The shelter volunteers also proudly told us that they will soon be taking in two baby opossums for rehabilitation. It warms my heart to see a place like this nestles amongst one of the biggest cities in the world. It just goes to show that you may be able to take the cat out of the jungle. But you can never take the jungle out of the cat. Even if that jungle is made of concrete.

If you are interested in volunteering for, donating to, or adopting from the Wildlife Freedom Foundation, please do check out their official website here – https://www.wildlifefreedomfoundation.org/

Howling of the Hybrids

The Abandoned UConn Kennels

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

It’s rare for me to do this, but I feel like I must speak my mind. I’m a writer. I’ve been doing this since I was eleven years old. It has been my one true gift as far back as I can remember, whether I wanted it to be or not. And as a writer, you want people to read your words. You want people to listen to your stories and feel your voice. But not this time. This is one of those rare pieces where I ask that you discontinue reading. This article really isn’t for the faint of heart. As a dog lover, this story rocked me to my core. When I had first heard of this place, I didn’t think there would be much to it. But the more digging I did, the more horrors I uncovered. I’m talking animal abuse. Genetic experimentation. Dark science. Murder. Grim subjects, all around. It’s one of those tales so bizarre, you can’t believe that you’ve never heard about it before. Again, I ask that you discontinue here. This story is not going to be pretty.

If you must continue reading, then allow me to set the stage: The University of Connecticut, the late 1970’s. A graduate student conducts the successful breeding of male coyotes with female beagle dogs to produce what we have come to call “coydogs.” Three generations are successfully created. They are housed in a kennel outside of the Biological Science unit in the UConn Forest. Though the experiments are bizarre, the animals are said to have been well taken care of. That is until 1983. One of the pups is kidnapped by two unknown assailants. She was then tortured and beaten to death. The story caught national attention. It severely derailed the genetic experimentation program, but it attempted to continue none the less. And unfortunately, this was not the first and would not be the last tragic animal death during this time on campus. After this unspeakable tragedy and it’s founder’s graduation, the entire experiment is believed to have collapsed. But the kennels where her work was conducted still stand.

It was late spring of 2020 when we finally made our trek into the UConn Forest to find what was left of this phantom facility. May is the perfect time of year for a good hike. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. But I warn you now that this place is not an easy find. If you do your research, follow the directions, and crack the code you will find this place no problem. If you don’t, you can and will spend hours combing through the forest looking for it. Full disclosure, that’s what happened to us. We parked in the wrong spot, and almost didn’t end up finding what we were looking for. The UConn Forest truly is just so vast and so full of the weirdest things imaginable. You could honestly spend days out there and never see the same thing twice. On our journey, we came across abandoned lawn equipment, countless fire pits, wild dogs, trails to nowhere, and a group of bros on a fishing trip. But eventually, we solved the riddle and found the old facility. And although there may not be too much left, this place certainly was quite creepy.

First coming upon the abandoned kennel, it very much looks like an old zoo paddock. An eight foot tall wooden fence surrounds the perimeter. There is even a swinging wooden gate to enter the kennel that’s very reminiscent of Jurassic Park. But this place is much more like that movie’s sequel, if you know what I mean. The weeds and plants have grown wild and dangerous. Some old wiring and tech has been left behind, but it’s all been rusted to Hell. At the far east corner, there is an old observation window. Most of the wood has rotted, but it still provides a chilling window into the past. The true sight to see here though are the two enclosures. Both surrounded by old chain link fences, there are two small  concrete doghouses standing side by side to each other. They have both been defaced with graffiti, and completely barren inside. One even has an old chair positioned on top of it for some reason. The place is also full of birds and chipmunks, who have clearly moved back in to reclaim this forgotten facility as their own.

We were both quiet on our long walk back to the car. I don’t know why. We were hot. We were hungry. But we also just couldn’t seem to shake the feeling of sorrow. It was tough to find this place. But it has also been tough to write about it. Very few have covered it in the past, and I can see why. There is so very little information out there. And what I did find, I wish I hadn’t. Much like Tiger King or Wild Wild Country, I just can’t quite believe that stuff like this actually happened. It’s all just so bizarre and truly beyond belief. But I guess that’s what makes stuff like the abandoned UConn Kennels stand out from the crowd. There may not be too much to see at the actual site. It’s no Undercliff Sanatorium or Mansfield Training School. But walking through the abandoned kennels, I could just tell that bad things had happened here. There was just such grimness and hopelessness nestled amongst the sprouting trees. This is a place that never should’ve existed. It is just one of those stories that I wish I could forget, but never will.