Strecker Memorial Laboratory – New York, New York - Atlas Obscura

Strecker Memorial Laboratory

Site of the first pathological and bacteriological research facility in the United States. 


Dwarfed by the massive ruin of the Renwick Smallpox Hospital at the southern end of Roosevelt Island, this small Romanesque stone building was once the home to groundbreaking work in understanding disease in the early 20th century.

Funded by the Strecker family, for whom the lab is named, the small building was constructed in 1892 as a support laboratory to the larger City Hospital nearby on the island. City Hospital was originally constructed to serve the medical needs of the large prison population on the island as well as New York City’s poorest citizens. At the time, Roosevelt Island was almost entirely dedicated to confinement of one sort or another, with a smallpox hospital at the southern tip and an insane asylum at the northern.

In 1907 the building was taken over by the Russell Sage Institute of Pathology. By the 1950s, it was abandoned.

Despite having fallen into ruins (along with many of the historic structures on Roosevelt Island), the laboratory was designated a historic landmark in 1972 but it took until 2010 for a full restoration to put the building back into the near pristine condition you see it in today. The historic structure now hides a power conversion substation for the trains running to the island.

Know Before You Go

You can find the building just north of the smallpox hospital on the path that runs along the east shore of the island.

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