Roosevelt Island Historical Walk
by Neil Tandon for the Roosevelt Island Historical Society©


Page 14 of 18

Although this wharf is purely decorative, it allows us a chance to discuss -- well, boats, which, for most of the island's history, were either the only or the primary means of reaching here.

The city established itself on the island in the 1830s. Rowboats were still used here well into the 1880s, even though steam was in wide use by 1810.

This lithograph (immediately below), dated 1862, shows row boats docked at 84th Street from where, every hour, they would depart for the Workhouse on Blackwell's Island.

Blackwell row boat service at 84th St.

The 84th St. Dock was structured much like the other docks of the Upper East Side:

They were mostly flimsy wooden constructions, and accessing them involved descending the muddy cliffs of Manhattan's coastline.

Around 1880 the MINNAHANOCK became the first steamer to serve the island.

The Minnahanock at Blackwell's Island.
Styled after the island's Native American name, the Minnahanock made two trips daily from Bellevue Hospital's 26th Street dock. Here (right) it is pictured (ca. 1893) docked at the island's City Hospital landing.

In December 1894 another steamer, the WILLIAM H. WICKHAM, began service, transporting visiting staff and patients from a reception ward at the East 70th Street

The little Bronx steamer.
dock to the island's Metropolitan Hospital (a general medical facility specializing in tuberculosis). By 1911 a small third steamer, the BRONX, pictured here (ca. 1916), was in service. The Bronx and the Wickham operated daily from 7A.M. to 1 A.M., sometimes as often as every 15 minutes.

Last steamer: the Welfare.
When the Elevator Storehouse at the Queensboro Bridge opened in 1919, the facilities at the East 70th Street dock were no longer needed. A new dock was built at 86th Street. From this dock, the last steamer to serve the island, the WELFARE, pictured here, began service to Metropolitan Hospital in November 1930.

In 1955 with the opening of the Welfare Island Bridge, regular ferry service ended altogether.

A brief return of ferry service in 1986.
In 1986, however, ferry service made a brief, two-month return, carrying commuters from the dock east of the Tram to Wall Street's Pier 11. This short-lived ferry is pictured here. (The sign in the upper-left corner, warning about "dangerous cargo," pertains to the pier's continuing use as an oil dock for Coler and Goldwater Hospitals.)

Roosevelt Island Historical Walk ©2000 by Neil Tandon & Roosevelt Island Historical Society
RIHS home page
PDF version
Neil Tandon's own RI Walk site
Previous page
Next page
Home Page
Blackwell's Was
DOC's Island Home
Before Rikers (3 Parts)
Origins in the
City of New York