New York is a city like no other—from the neon lights and iconic skyscrapers to Central Park, Broadway musicals, and more. But it can also get...weird. If you’re looking for a unique way to spend an afternoon and share an unforgettable experience, we’ve mapped out five of New York City’s weirdest places worth checking out.
Prior to discovering the smallpox vaccine in 1976, New York City opened Renwick Hospital on Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island) in 1856 to provide refuge and quarantine for infected locals. The hospital was abandoned by the ‘50s, and slowly began to ruin from neglected renovations and harsh weather. In 1975, the Landmarks Preservation Commission took interest in its dilapidated Gothic Revival-style infrastructure and declared it a city landmark. While it’s not open for tours, you can still legally explore its eerie remains on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island. After taking the tramway or F-train to the island, walk along West Road, which turns into East Road, and the hospital will be on your right.
Founded in 1904 on the Upper East Side, the Explorers Club Headquarters prides itself on the scientific research of land, sea, air, and space. Club members boast many scientific firsts, including the first trip to the North and South Pole, the first trip to the summit of Mount Everest, and even the first trip the surface of the moon. The Club also offers expedition resources including funding and member-to-member consulting. The Club’s entirety is only open to members and their guests, however, certain designated rooms are open to the general public from 9am-6pm, Monday through Friday. For hours and special events, be sure to visit https://explorers.org/.
A small triangular plaque can be found in Manhattan’s West Village emblazoned with a strange message: “Property of the Hess Estate which has never been dedicated for public purposes." Back in the 1910s, New York City claimed eminent domain (the claiming of private property, which then becomes public) over David Hess’ West Village property to demolish hundreds of buildings to expand Seventh Avenue and the IRT subway. The heirs of Hess figured out years later that a small triangular area of land, about the size of a doormat, was theirs for the keeping. Be sure to check it out for yourself on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street.
A number of graffiti-clad concrete slabs were once located on the sidewalk outside 520 Madison Avenue, often confused for run-of-the-mill street art. But these industrial fragments are actually a portion of the Berlin wall purchased directly from the East German government by real estate mogul Jerry Speyer, and remain one of the largest portions still intact. One slab can still be seen outdoors at nearby Paley Park, while the others have been moved to the lobby of 520 Madison Avenue for preservation. The lobby is open to the public seven days a week.
On the roof of the Cooper Union Foundation Building, a funnel-like structure can be spotted, which predated the blueprint for the world's first elevator shaft. It was fitted into the building’s infrastructure while being built in the 1850s on the orders of Peter Cooper, even though elevators were yet to be invented. Cooper had high hopes that a modern shaft system would eventually be installed, using a makeshift pulley system in the meantime. Various tours and exhibitions are offers to the public year round. For hours and locations, visit http://cooper.edu/events-and-exhibitions.