The Octagon (Roosevelt Island)

The Octagon
The Octagon, Roosevelt Island, New York
The Octagon (Roosevelt Island)
Location 888 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, NYC, NY,

40°46′8.42″N 73°56′38.13″W / 40.7690056°N 73.9439250°W / 40.7690056; -73.9439250Coordinates: 40°46′8.42″N 73°56′38.13″W / 40.7690056°N 73.9439250°W / 40.7690056; -73.9439250

Built 1835
Architect Alexander Jackson Davis
Architectural style Octagon Mode
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 72000880[1]
Added to NRHP March 16, 1972

The Octagon built in 1834 is a historic octagonal building located at 888 Main Street on Roosevelt Island in New York City. It originally served as the main entrance to the New York City Lunatic Asylum which opened in 1841. Designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, the five-story rotunda was made of blue-gray stone that was quarried on the island. It is the last remnant of the hospital and after many years of decay and two fires was close to ruin. After restoration, it has now been incorporated into a large apartment complex.


The new apartment complex utilizes both solar panels and fuel cell installations. A 50kW array of solar panels and a 400 kW fuel cell enable the building to generate more than 50% of its power.[2] The fuel cell is a combined heat and power system that converts natural gas to electricity and heat via a combustion-free, electrochemical process. This system provides power and heat that meets the majority of the building’s energy demand, and the efficiency it achieves is higher than the energy received from the power grid. Not only does the system provide more efficient energy usage, the heat from the process is also used for the building’s space heating and domestic water requirements. Thus the Octagon is projected to reduce its carbon emissions by 790 metric tons annually.[3]

The Octagon received the largest initial award of New York State Green Building Tax Credits and was recognized in the first New York City Green Buildings Competition with the "Green Apple Award" for leadership in applying sustainable design principles to residential development. In 2006, a newly constructed residential building was built on the site, modeled on the original structure. It received LEED Silver status from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008.[4]


Mistreatment of patients at the asylum was the center of the exposé by Nellie Bly in her 1887 book Ten Days in a Mad-House.

On March 16, 1972, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.[1]

In April 2006, the renovated Octagon reopened as the lobby entrance to a pair of adjacent apartment buildings with 500 units in total.

See also


Further reading
  • Gray, Christopher, "STREETSCAPES/The Octagon on Roosevelt Island; A Once-Grand 1839 Tower Is Given a New Life", The New York Times, January 23, 2005
  • Vita, Tricia, "Restoring Roosevelt Island's Ruins: A developer has plans for a former asylum beside Manhattan", Preservation magazine, National Trust for Historic Preservation, April 25, 2003

External links

  • Official site
  • NYC Landmark description and history
  • Forgotten NY on Roosevelt Island including the Octagon
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