New photos of New York island where Irishwoman ‘Typhoid Mary’ was forced to live

North Brother Island was the home of Typhoid Mary, the most notorious carrier in New York history of the disease.

North Brother Island, just outside of the Bronx in New York, was the home of Mary Mallon, also known as 'Typhoid Mary,' a woman from Tyrone who became the most notorious carrier in New York's  history of the disease.

Where the ferry would depart from twice a day to and from North Brother Island

The location, now mostly overgrown by plants and inhabited only by protected animals, used to serve as a quarantine zone for lepers, sufferers of typhoid fever, and drug addicts.

The abandoned site is now mostly overgrown and not open to the public
The abandoned site is now mostly overgrown and not open to the public

The Daily Mail reports that photographer and local historian in the area, Ian Ference, was given “unprecedented access” to the now deteriorating site. The images which Ference photographed of the remains at North Brother Island paint a dismal picture for what life must have been like for the inmates there.

The remains of an operating room in the Tuberculosis Pavillion


“This has got to be one of America's most important places to visit,” said Ference. “Historically it has had a notorious and sometimes sinister reputation.”North Brother Island was opened in 1885 as a quarantine center, only to be closed in 1963, leaving behind a “a haunting labyrinth of crumbling ruins.” The area is now patrolled by the armed coastguard members to protect the “sanctity” of the abandoned site.

“It was established as a forced quarantine camp for people suffering from infectious and often fatal diseases such as typhoid, scarlet fever, yellow fever, and typhus. There were six people suffering from leprosy confined here in wooden huts,” said Ference. Ference attributes the waves of immigrants coming to live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in New York to the inevitable spread of infectious diseases.

“Once the health authorities identified a person as having a communicable disease they were seized and forced to live on North Brother Island - unless they were rich enough to afford a private clinic.”

Ference added that the mortality rate was high at North Brother, while the recovery rate was low. More often than not, once people were placed in North Brother, they were never heard from again.

Western staircase of the Tuberculosis Pavillion

Officially, North Brother is only open to a select few, though some bloggers have detailed their “illicit” trips to its shores. Ference was granted access to develop the island’s history in 2008, and has made 15 trips since then.

The morgue where Mary Mallon was discovered to have had live typhoid cultures in her gall bladder

"I'm truly fortunate to have been given this exclusive access to one of America's most significant forbidden places,” said Ference.

Mary Mallon 'Typhoid Mary' (right) and one of her nurses

One of North Brother’s most famous residents was ‘Typhoid Mary,’ an Irish immigrant to New York City who was “the first healthy carrier of any disease ever to be identified.”  She spent years imprisoned in North Brother’s bleak woods on two separate occasions after she was deemed a threat to the public for having transmitted the fatal disease.