Secret signage of defunct New York hospitals

GouverneurhospitalFDRdriveEver found yourself on the FDR Drive near the South Street Seaport staring at this kind of spooky structure?

It’s set amid 1970s-era apartment buildings and housing projects, making its rounded wings and red brick exterior stand out considerably.

There’s an interesting history behind it. This is the back of Gouverneur Hospital, founded in the late 19th century to serve the crowded immigrant communities of the Lower East Side.

This particular building was constructed in 1897, and it’s marked by a lovely terra cotta sign and ornate carved front entrance at 621 Water Street.


As for its curious rounded design, it served a health purpose. “[It] was believed that tuberculosis bacilli hid in corners, so the shape was an early attempt at preventive medicine,” explains this New York Times piece.

Gouverneur Hospital still exists in a more modern facility nearby on Madison Street. The 1897 building, though, now provides housing for New Yorkers living with HIV and mental illness.


I love the lettering on this sign for Union Hospital of the Bronx, opened here in 1922. It’s not easy to see beneath the contemporary signage for Union Community Health Care, a facility that took over this space on 188th Street in the Bronx.

Here are a few more old city hospitals that have been repurposed into—what else?—high-end apartments.

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3 Responses to “Secret signage of defunct New York hospitals”

  1. beforemybigbreak Says:

    Very interesting. Love reading about old NY architecture.

  2. architessica Says:

    I love this post. For years I have wondered what the story was behind this building. Do you know if it is landmarked?

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, according to this architecture site:

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