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231 East 22nd Street, Suite 23 New York NY 10010

Fax: +88 (0) 202 0000 001

Smallpox Hospital — The Renwick Ruin

Location: Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island, New York, NY

Landmark Status: NYC Individual Landmark; National Register of Historic Places

Original Architects: James Renwick, Jr., York & Sawyer, Renwick Aspinwall & Owen

Dates of Construction: 1854-1856, 1903-1905

Date of Restoration: N/A

Scope of Work: Archival Research, Existing Conditions Survey Report and Drawings, Prioritization Plan, Structural Stabilization Drawings, Cost Estimate



The Smallpox Hospital holds a special place in the architectural heritage of New York City and the history of urban medical treatment and training. Designed by renowned architect James Renwick, Jr. and constructed on the southern edge of Blackwell’s (now Roosevelt) Island in 1854-56, it was the first major hospital in the country dedicated to the treatment of smallpox. Far from being a utilitarian structure, it exemplified the Gothic Revival style for which Renwick became so well known, with gneiss (similar to granite) veneer quarried on the island, crenelated parapets, and pointed-arch window openings.


Thirty years after the hospital was constructed, it was renovated to serve its second purpose as a residence for nursing students. Two wings were added to the “Nurses Home” in 1903-05, mimicking the original façade configurations and exterior materials almost exactly. Abandonment of the building in the 1950s eventually led to the collapse or removal of the roof structure, much of the floor structure and interior walls, and sections of the exterior walls. As vegetation took over the remaining structure, several campaigns of emergency repairs and temporary stabilization efforts were executed over the decades.


In 2015, Walter B. Melvin Architects, LLC was retained for a multi-phase project to permanently stabilize the Smallpox Hospital ruin and restore public access. Phase I included review of previous reports/drawings and archival research to inform the full history of the site, as well as a laser scan of the ruin. Phase 2 comprised a survey of existing conditions at the exterior and interior architecture, structure and site, with in-depth field investigations and probes. Phase 3 included preparation of a comprehensive existing conditions survey report and drawing set, along with a prioritization plan of recommended repairs. Phase 4 concluded the study with schematic design documents and a preliminary cost estimate for the structural stabilization of the ruin.


In 2019, WBMA and consultant team provided an update and addendum to the existing conditions survey report, and advanced the stabilization drawings to design development.


The ultimate goal of current and future studies is to allow safe access of the site by the public, who would experience the ruin not as pristinely restored or as modified by modern materials, but as a well maintained landmark expressing its full age and history.

Sergio De Orbeta


Sergio De Orbeta

With over 19 years of experience in the field, Sergio has been instrumental in the successful restoration, repair, and continued maintenance of numerous historic structures in New York City and beyond.  13 of those years have been at WBMA, where he has taken a detailed and methodical approach to his projects. Some of his noteworthy ongoing projects include Casa Italiana, Columbia University; The Osborne; 100 Hudson Street; 525 Park Avenue; 130 East End Avenue; and 300 West 108th Street.  Previous award-winning projects include 131 Duane Steet – the Hope Building, 451 Broome Street, Donald Judd Home & Studio, and Marymount School of New York.  He is a Registered Architect in the States of New York and New Jersey. Originally from Puerto Rico, Sergio received his Master of Science in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania and Bachelor of Architecture with a Minor in Architectural History from Carnegie Mellon University.



University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Master of Science in Historic Preservation

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
Bachelor of Architecture
Minor in Architectural History

Professional Registration

Registered Architect in the States of New York and New Jersey

Martin Lee Griggs, RA

Martin Lee Griggs

Martin has worked in the architecture and construction industry for over 30 years, including 26 years at WBMA specializing in the assessment and repair of exterior envelopes. He has overseen several award-winning restoration projects including St. Paul’s Chapel – Columbia University, 451 Broome Street, Liberty Tower and Alwyn Court, as well as restoration projects at Louis Sullivan’s Bayard-Condict Building, the Cosmopolitan Club, several City parks and residential cooperatives. Martin is well versed in the myriad building materials that have been used in the northeast and has extensive experience assessing and restoring a variety of masonry and roofing systems. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California and is a Registered Architect in New York State.

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Bachelor of Architecture

Professional Registration
Registered Architect in the State of New York

Robert C. Bates


Robert C. Bates

With 35 years of professional experience at WBMA, Robert has overseen restoration projects at many of New York City’s premier institutions, including The Met Cloisters, Donald Judd Home and Studio, Green-Wood Cemetery and Riverside Church, as well as McKim Mead and White’s 998 Fifth Avenue and William Tuthill’s Schinasi Mansion at 351 Riverside Drive. A graduate of Lehigh University, Robert is a Registered Architect in the States of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as a member of the American Institute of Architects. He has a strong understanding of traditional building materials and has developed many new restoration techniques over the years. Robert has published articles on waterproofing of historic masonry walls, restoration of cast iron, and roofing replacement.



Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA
Bachelor of Art in Architecture

Professional Registration

Registered Architect in the States of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut