Has any borough, neighborhood, or stretch of land in New York City been renamed as many times as Roosevelt Island has over its 400-year history?
Called Minnahanock by the Canarsie Indians, tribal leaders sold the he two-mile long island to Dutch governor Wouter van Twiller in 1637. Now part of New Amsterdam, it was renamed Varcken (Hog) Island for the pigs the Dutch raised there.
[The island formerly known as Welfare, in a 1940s postcard.]
In 1666, with the English now in control, the island fell into the hands of Captain John Manning and was renamed Manning’s Island. Twenty years later Manning’s son-in-law, Robert Blackwell, inherited the island. He decided it was now Blackwell’s Island.
The city of New York bought the island in 1828 for $32,500, building hospitals, poorhouses, and prisons on what was formerly farmland. The Blackwell name officially endured until 1921, when it got another moniker: Welfare Island.
Finally, in 1973, with plans to turn the island into a mostly residential neighborhood, the city renamed it Roosevelt Island. Lets hope this one lasts!