”Everything had a lounging, listless, madhouse air, which was very painful. The moping idiot, cowering down with long disheveled hair; the gibbering maniac, with his hideous laugh and pointed finger; the vacant eye, the fierce wild face, the gloomy picking of the hands and lips, and munching of the nails: there they were all, without disguise, in naked ugliness and horror.”
Unlike the Smallpox Hospital at the opposite end of the island, all that remains of the Insane Asylum, which was designed by famed architect Alexander Jackson Davis, is The Octagon. The Octagon originally served as the main entrance to the Asylum, which opened in 1841. The rotunda is made of blue-gray stone, quarried on the island. The dome on the building was not in the original plans by Davis four years later, much to the architect’s dismay, to make the structure seem less dismal. Sometime after the 1970s, this dome collapsed but in 2006, was rebuilt when the land was bought by a developer to build high-rise, luxury apartments (whose website suspiciously leaves out that the rotunda was part of an asylum). The structure also originally contained two wings which spread out from the dome but those were knocked down in the 1960s.
888 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, New York
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