North Brother Island, “the last unknown place”, in Second Life

North Brother Island; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrNorth Brother Island, June 2019 – click and image for full size

Update: in keeping with Serene and Jade’s approach to offering their region builds for approximately a month before moving to a new location and project, North Brother Island has closed, and SLurls therefore removed from this article.

For their July 2019 region design, Serene Footman and Jade Koltai bring us their vision for what photographer Christopher Payne called The Last Unknown Place in New York City – North Brother Island; and like all of their builds, it is a true wonder to behold and explore.

North Brother Island is one of two small islands located on New York’s East River, its slightly smaller companion now being known as South Brother Island. Both were claimed in 1614 by the Dutch West India Company and originally called De Gesellen (“the companions”), which eventually became transposed to “the Brothers”. Both island have a fascinating history, with that of North Brother perhaps being the more complex – and the more tragic.

North Brother Island; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrNorth Brother Island, June 2019

In 1904, it was the final resting place of the General Slocum, a massive side-wheel paddle steamer built in the 1890s, she caught fire whilst carrying 1,342 passengers and through a combination of neglect by the owners, foolhardiness by the Captain (he failed to use opportunities to either make a safe landing or run the ship aground before the fire overwhelmed the vessel), 1,021 of those souls perished either aboard the ship or as a result of drowning in the East River – many of their bodies washing up on North Brother Island in addition to as the vessel running aground there.

In addition, Serene goes on to note the island was the home to:

Riverside Hospital, which moved here from Roosevelt Island in 1885 … Following World War II North Brother Island was inhabited by war veterans during the nationwide housing shortage, before being abandoned again in the early 1950s. It was then was used as the site of a treatment centre for adolescent drug addicts, but the centre closed amidst controversy – it was said that heroin addicts were held against their will and locked in rooms until ‘clean’ – in the 1960s.

– Serene Footman, writing about North Brother Island

North Brother Island; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrNorth Brother Island, June 2019

Riverside Hospital, originally founded in the 1850s, was designed to isolate and treat victims of smallpox, with its mission expanding to cover other diseases requiring quarantine. In this role – as Serene also notes – it took in those stricken with typhoid, including “Typhoid Mary”, Mary Mallon. An Irish-American cook, she was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever. It is believed she infected between 47 and 51 people during her career as a cook, and was twice forcibly isolated by public health authorities, the second time finally passing away in Riverside Hospital in 1938, after a total of nearly three decades in isolation.

In 1943, a large tuberculosis pavilion was constructed on the island but was never used for that purpose, already being obsolete by the time it opened. Instead, it was used as a dormitory by a number of New York City’s colleges, students transported to and from the island via the East 134th Street Ferry Terminal.

North Brother Island; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrNorth Brother Island, June 2019

In the late 1950s  / early 1960s, the same ferries were used to transport adolescents to the island to be “treated” for drug abuse. The idea had been to provide care for up to 100 males and 50 females away from jails where drugs could still be obtained, with stays at the pavilion being for up to six months. But the hospital gained a reputation for keeping adolescent addicts against their will – it merely required their parents to place them there, with or without the agreement of the courts. Once there, the young people were frequently locked away and left to go cold turkey as a means to break their addiction.

The hospital finally closed in the 1960s, and North Brother Island abandoned, its many building and facilities – including the ferry wharves and giant gantry crane, many of the hospital buildings and facilities, left to rot. However, many of them have now been captured in this interpretation of the island by Serene and Jade.

For our reconstruction of North Brother Island, we have relied on maps which contain details of where specific buildings – the hospital itself, staff quarters, the physician’s house, the morgue, tennis courts, and so on – were located. (For reference, we have labelled and dated the island’s buildings in-world.)

– Serene Footman, writing about North Brother Island

North Brother Island; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrNorth Brother Island, June 2019

In addition they have called upon the resources of Christopher Payne’s catalogue of photos of the island: North Brother Island The Last Unknown Place in New York City. The result of five years of being allowed to visit the island  – today both North and South Brother islands are designated wildlife sanctuaries, and so protected (North Island is additionally regarded as being too dangerous for the public given the state of its buildings) – Payne carefully constructed a visual history of the island. This, together with their own extensive research, have allowed Jade and Serene have produced a region that powerfully captures North Island as it stands today, its past history, and the pathos and pain of that history.

The latter is particularly well captured in the small details to be found throughout the region. Take, for example, the bed frame converted to a seat and that sits on a little dock. A suitcase  sits behind it, while a short distance away, a little motor boat sits on the water; the entire scene brings to mind the longing of the young people held on the island to return home.

North Brother Island; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrNorth Brother Island, June 2019

To say North Brother Island is visually stunning is to do it a disservice. As with all of Serene and Jade’s builds, it must be seen to be appreciated and understood – and there are plenty of places within it that allow visitors to contemplate on the history of the island – or whatever else might be on their minds.

Related Link

Jeeves with ice and a little poetry

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, June 30th 13:00: Tea Time with Jeeves

A new series just for summer, featuring Reginald Jeeves, a well-educated, intelligent valets of indeterminate age who is employed by the amiable young man-about-town, Bertie Wooster, whom Jeeves routinely has to benignly rescue from the consequences of his idiocy.

Created by author, humorist, and lyricist (working with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern) Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (October 1881 – February 1975), Jeeves and Wooster are perhaps his most iconic characters, although they didn’t arrive until he was into his “second” period as a writer, which commenced in 1915 (the first having ended in 1908). They appeared as Wodehouse turned his hand to a more farcical style of writing through what would become his other popular series of stories that documented the goings-on at the fiction English stately home of Blandings Castle.

Jeeves and Wooster had their first outing in the short story Extricating Young Gussie, published by the Saturday Evening Post in September 1915. However, it was arguably not until Leave It to Jeeves, published in 1916, that the pair were recognisably “themselves”.

Both the Blanding Castle and the Jeeves series came at a time when Wodehouse also enjoy Broadway success through his partnership with Bolton and Kern (1915-1919). However with the popularity of his stories increasing in both the US and back in the UK, Wodehouse started to focus more on his stories and novels. This allowed the Jeeves series to eventually grow to 35 short stories and 11 novels, the majority of which are first-person narrated from the perspective of Bertie Wooster.

As the popularity of the series grew, so too did it start to be translated to film, radio and, later, to television. In the latter regard, the comedy team of Hugh Laurie (Wooster) and Stephen Fry (Jeeves) in Jeeves and Wooster, is perhaps the quintessential representation of the pair. Airing from 1990 through 1993 in the UK, the series set all the stories in a period spanning the 1920-1930s, with each 50-minute episode taking its title from a Jeeves story, but often combining two or more of the tales into its plot. It is not unfair to say the series introduced Wodehouse, Jeeves and Wooster to a new generation of fans.

For their outing in Jeeves’ world, Seanchai Library delve into My Man Jeeves. Published in 1919, it draws together four early outings for the series, all originally published in the Saturday Evening Post:

  • Leave It to Jeeves, first published in February 1916.
  • The Aunt and the Sluggard, first published in April 1916.
  • Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest, first published in December 1916.
  • Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg, first published in March 1917.

Join Da5id Abbot, Kayden Oconnell, and Caledonia Skytower as the read this delightful series at Ceiliuradh Glen.

Monday, July 1st 19:00: The Ice is Coming

Gyro Muggins reads Patricia Wrightson’s 1977 novel.

Frost is seen in summer and ice patches form in spite of the hot Australian sun. To the Happy Folk, living on the continent’s green edges live the Happy Folk. For the Inlanders (Wrightson’s fantasy view of the Australian Aboriginals), however, the frost was once seen as a warning that an ancient foe, the ice-bearded Ninya, were on the rise – and so it might be that they are again.

The first to recognise the rise of the old threat is young Wirrun of the People. He leaves his job and sets out to meet the Ninya, taking with him as a sidekick, the petulant Mimi, and for protection, the Power bestowed by the first of the creatures in their path.

To assist in his quest, Wirrun sends for the men from Mount Conner to sing the Ninya down and keep them in their caves. But he must also beat the Ninya to the Eldest Nargun, source of fire, and use it to hold the Ninya until the men from Mount Conner arrive. And so his adventure begins.

Tuesday, July 2nd 19:00: The Penderwicks in Spring

Springtime is finally arriving on Gardam Street, and there are surprises in store for each member of the family. Some surprises are just wonderful, like neighbour Nick Geiger coming home from war. And some are ridiculous, like Batty’s new dog-walking business. Batty is saving up her dog-walking money for an extra-special surprise for her family, which she plans to present on her upcoming birthday. But when some unwelcome surprises make themselves known, the best-laid plans fall apart.

Filled with all the heart, hilarity, and charm that has come to define this beloved clan, The Penderwicks in Spring is about fun and family and friends (and dogs), and what happens when you bring what’s hidden into the bright light of the spring sun.

With Caledonia Skytower.

Wednesday, July 3rd 19:00: Poems For America

With Caledonia Skytower.

Thursday, July 4th 19:00: Closed

The Library is dark as people mark July 4th.