Riverside Hospital opened on North Brother Island in 1885. Patients with communicable diseases such as typhus, smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, and other exotic illnesses were brought here. This was where "Typhoid Mary" was sent after she continued to work as a cook despite being a carrier of TB and causing as many as 50 deaths.
An expansion wing meant for TB patients was used as dormitory space for local college residents in 1943. Eventually the hospital treated hard core drug users before it was shut down in 1963 and it has been unused ever since.
The worst maritime disaster in NY history occurred here when, on June 15, 1904, the General Slocum experienced a fire. Life rafts were nailed and painted to the decks and life vests were so rotten that they actually sank to the bottom rather then floated. The pleasure ship was headed for a church picnic on LI when the fire broke out and the captain steered it onto the beach of North Brother Island. Over 1,000 people died, their burnt bodies laid out on the beach for the coroner.