Photo Album Page 4
As the group moved along the interior roadway, they came upon the oldest large building on the island, featuring an archstone with the year 1885 carved into it along with the names of three commissioners from the era before the Department of Correction emerged as a separate agency with its own identity.

Prior to that emergence in 1896, DOC's parent agency, the Department of Public Charities and Correction, operated the city's public charitable and correctional institutions under a commission of first four, then five and still later three commissioners. During that period, Hart's institutions included "a lunatic asylum" and a charity hospital for women.

Beneath a canopy of branches and leaves from the wild growth of tree, Maureen McEnery-Hraska and Patricia Murphy read the inscription on a Hart building erected in the late 19th century.

The dual agency, Public Charities and Correction, itself had evolved from the consolidation in 1832 of various charitable and correctional institutions into what was called the Almshouse Department. It was run first by a five-member commission and later by a 10-member board of governors.

After admiring the building's stairway arch and its historic stone marker, the ladies proceed to the next intersecting street, still under the wild trees' canopy, and turned westward (left) to the building that once served as the Roman Catholic chapel.

Pat recalled how every Christmas Eve a midnight mass would be celebrated in the chapel and that City Islanders would be invited to take part. "It was so beautiful. The chapel. The midnight mass. People of the two islands together. So beautiful. Now look at it."

Virginia noted that when the stained-glass windows were being designed for the chapel, several children on Hart and City Islands posed as models for the personages depicted in the panels. Referring to the fact that she had been one of the Hart Islanders who appeared in the stained glass scenes, Mary mentioned "I was an angel." The remark prompted her two friends to josh her, "Only on stained glass, only on stained glass."

The ladies pause a moment at the steps of the former Catholic chapel.

Deigning not to notice the good-natured needling, Mary also recalled how the chapel sometimes served as a recital hall. "We'd put on concerts there; I used to play the organ. I remember telling an inmate who helped out around the place and who was about to be released that he should make sure to get pinched again in time to be back for our upcoming concert. We had practiced so hard and it was going to be so good that he better get rearrested so he wouldn't miss singing in it."

Mary cleared up a question of what bell summoned to meal the crews working in distant parts of the island. "It wasn't the chapel bell, it was the 8th division's bell. The 8th division was in charge of the mess hall. They had a bell to ring for that purpose."

The City Island attorney said the red brick chapel had been a joint public and private sector project. Outside subscription raised funds for its construction but the Hart inmates and staff also worked building it. "I remember my father supervising the work and even his seeing to the red carpet being tacked down for midnight mass."

In the jungle-like overgrowth to the left of the tumbled-down house where Judith Colgan once lived, you may be able to spot her photographing it.

In front of the church, the group reboarded the bus. It turned south onto the west shore road for a brief ride to the end of complex of streets. It stopped at the edge of currently-worked section of Potter's Field.

The visitors walked back to an east-west street that the bus would have had difficulty navigating because of the wild tree branches.

Slowly the group became aware that Judy was not in their midst. Looking around for her, they spotted her deep into the flora overgrowth engulfing the remains of her grandparents' Hart Island home. The NYCHS general secretary went to aid her but she assured him that she was alright and that she had just wanted to get close enough to see if she could spot the "little office" her grandfather had set up for her because she had wanted "an office just like his."

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