Posts Tagged ‘Islands off Pelham Bay Park’

The curious history of the city’s Rat Island

November 29, 2010

Dwarfed by tiny City Island and lilliputian Hart Island (New York City’s Potter’s Field) off the Bronx, Rat Island is currently uninhabited.

But this 2.5 acre hump of bedrock has a long, strange history.

Purchased from Native Americans in 1654 by the Pell family, the island’s name supposedly stems from the inmates then jailed on Hart Island.

When inmates—who were nicknamed rats—escaped, they swam to Rat Island first before making a go at reaching City Island.

By the 1800s, it was the location of the “Pelham Pesthouse,” a yellow fever hospital that quarantined 40 people.

New York bought it in 1888, though it’s not clear why, since the city didn’t put it to any use. Until the 1930s a group of artists and writers lived there.

Eventually it went back into private ownership—and last year was actually up for sale. The price? Just $300,000.