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Roosevelt Island is in a constant state of reinvention. It has hardly lasted more than 75 years with the same name – over the past 200 years it's been known as Minnehanonck, Varkens Eylandt, Blackwell's Island, Welfare Island, and Roosevelt Island. The mid-1970's saw the State of New York embark upon a planned community that represents the current incarnation of this 2-mile East River oddity. The Chapel of the Good Shepherd is one of only a handful of buildings that was erected prior to the 1970's (1888 to be exact). As the original four main apartment complexes sprung up around it, the Chapel became a de facto community center. The original 1970 photo shows an overgrowth of plants and trees that was representative of the deteriorating island and was probably shot for documentation purposes just before development of new community began.
Photo source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS.