Nesponsit Health Care Center
Located in Queens, NY
- Also Known As:Neponsit Beach Hospital for Children, Neponsit Home for the Aged, Neponsit Beach Hospital for Crippled and Tubercular Children
- Genre:Sanatorium / Isolation Hospital, Children's Hospital, Nursing Home
- Age:103 years
- Demo / Renovated:N/A
- Decaying for:19 years
- Last Known Status:Abandoned
Photo © 2007 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Nesponsit Health Care Center History
In 1877, a crime reporter for the New York Tribune named Jacob Riis got a first-hand account of tenement life in the city, and became quite appalled at what he saw. Tiny rooms in dark, dingy buildings held far too many family members in a squalid and depressing environment, to which there was no relief. Riis soon became an influential spokesperson to lobby for the establishment of many of the city's parks and playgrounds, providing a haven from the stagnant air and cramped lifestyle so commonly found within the city limits.
Within these deplorable conditions lurked disease and death: diphtheria, typhoid, pneumonia were all killers. One of the worst contagions to plague cities was Tuberculosis, killing thousands of people, especially children, during the turn of the century. In 1908 Riis and his group, The New York Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor, sought to provide young children a haven from TB. Eventually the city established a tubercular hospital on the west end of the peninsula in Rockaway, Queens, with financial help from John D. Rockefeller, Jacob H. Schiff and Andrew Carnegie.
The Nesponsit Beach Hospital for Children consisted of a large brick building resting upon 14 acres of oceanfront property. Large open air balconies provided a fresh ocean breeze - one of the few known treatments of the disease at the time. Forty-one children were first transferred from nearby Seabreeze Hospital on Coney Island in 1914; boys under 12 and girls under 14 who suffered from TB would later be admitted from orphanages, tenements, and children's hospitals around the city. Alpine sun lamp treatment and supervised ocean bathing were major forms of treatment, and in the winter the salt water was piped into huge tanks where it would be heated and used to bathe the children inside. Nesponsit soon became the leading hospital in the treatment of bone, joint, and glandular tuberculosis. A detailed account of the hospital's early days can be found in a scanned 1930 Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle article here.
In 1938, the hospital was expanded by two new buildings; one being a nurse's residence. During World War II the United States Public Health Service temporarily operated the campus as a TB hospital for merchant marines. Afterwards, it resumed treating children as the Neponsit Beach Hospital for Crippled and Tubercular Children until it closed in 1955, as the disease became more easily treatable. It was left vacant until 1964, when it became a nursing home called Neponsit Home for the Aged. For 34 years it cared for the elderly by the seashore, many of whom were stricken with Alzheimer's.
In September of 1998, a storm hit the Rockaways hard. The facade of the hospital was thought to have been in imminent danger of collapsing, and Mayor Guliani's administration ordered the patients and staff at Nesponsit to be evacuated immediately. They were hurried onto buses in the middle of the night, with no prior notice to the patients or their families which is required by law. The ordeal was simply too much for two frail residents who died, and another went missing for weeks.
The hospital did not collapse, even after the battering of many storms over the years. Some wonder whether the odd, late night evacuation was a devious plot to redevelop the land into a hotel with prime oceanfront views. A covenant in the old hospital deed has claimed that the land can only be used as a hospital or public park, however. And so, with neither plan having support, the old hospital is left to decay.