In the mid-19th century, Thomas Maxey, a patient at the New York Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island, built Fort Maxey, a strange structure complete with cannons, a garden of tall flowers, and mysterious carvings.

The infamous New York Lunatic Asylum has its share of chilling stories. But one odd, forgotten story is the tale of a mysterious man who took it upon himself to build a bizarre, hobbit-hole like “fort,” which included a bridge, a bizarre stone gateway, and a toll for curious visitors.

Thomas Maxey, the “lunatic” who built the structure single-handedly, believed that the government would one day realize how valuable the fort was and purchase it from him. But in the meantime, he lived in the fort himself, surrounding himself with hollyhocks and broken weapons, donning pretty hats, and regaling his guests with stories about mythology and the ancients.

 

Highlights include:
• An infamous lunatic asylum
• An “insane” man who seems smarter than most sane people
• People being committed to the asylum for no reason
• Nellie Bly’s gutsy investigative reporting
• Some follow-up on the Luxor, and magical triangles

 

“At the farthest extremity of the Island the ground on which [Fort Maxey] stands has been rescued from the grasp of Neptune by the . . . endeavors only of its proprietor, whose name is given to the structure—Thomas Maxey, Esq., architect, mason, carpenter, civil engineer, philosopher, and philanthropist.”
-from an article in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, from February 1866

 

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Pictures of Fort Maxey

Fort Maxey Blackwell's Island

Within Fort Maxey-Harper’s New Monthly Magazine Volume 126 December 1865 to May 1866

Fort Maxey Blackwell's Island

Grand Entrance to Fort Maxey, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. March 24, 1866

Fort Maxey Blackwell's Island

Gateway To Fort Maxey, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine Volume 126 December 1865 to May 1866

Fort Maxey

Unwanted Visitors-Fort Maxey. Frank Leslie’s llustrated_Newspaper. March 24, 1866

Sources consulted RE: Fort Maxey Blackwell’s Island

Books consulted RE: Fort Maxey Blackwell’s Island

Websites RE: Fort Maxey Blackwell’s Island

  • Great pics of the asylum: https://www.theruin.org/blog/2016/10/12/the-new-york-city-lunatic-asylum-a-history
  • https://quiverquotes.com/2017/05/03/to-be-sane-amongst-the-insane/
  • http://www.asylumprojects.org/index.php?title=Blackwell%27s_Island_Asylum
  • https://rihs.us/2020/03/30/charles-dickens-visit-%E2%80%A2-an-island-in-the-mist-%E2%80%A2-artworks-for-sale/
  • https://lisawallerrogers.com/2009/01/03/charles-dickens-visit-to-blackwells-island-asylum-1842/
  • https://www.melinadruga.com/blackwellsislandasylum/
  • https://forgotten-ny.com/2005/10/roosevelt-island-2005/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackwell_Island_Light
  • https://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2018/06/25/dancing-at-the-lunatics-ball-on-blackwells-island/
  • http://www.hauntingdarkness.com/2012/01/ghosts-of-roosevelt-island.html
  • “BLACKWELL’S ISLAND LUNATIC ASYLUM.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Feb1866, Vol. 32 Issue 189, preceding p274-294. 22p. 20 Illustrations:
    Harper’s New Monthly Magazine Volume 126 December 1865 to May 1866: https://archive.org/details/harpersnew32various/page/290/mode/2up?q=fort+maxey
  • Article page 184: https://archive.org/details/harpersweekly00bonn/page/184/mode/2up?q=blackwell%27s
  • Article page 91: https://archive.org/details/harpersweeklyv13bonn/page/91/mode/2up?q=blackwell%27s
  • https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/roosevelt-island-lighthouse
  • http://www.correctionhistory.org/rooseveltisland/html/rooseveltislandtour_lighthouse.html
  • https://rihs.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/2018-August-Blackwells-Almanac.pdf
  • https://www.loc.gov/item/ny0949/
  • https://www.loc.gov/item/ny0953/
  • https://www.boweryboyshistory.com/2007/10/mysteries-of-roosevelt-island-madmans.html
  • https://forgotten-ny.com/2005/10/roosevelt-island-2005/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackwell_Island_Light
  • https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/islands-of-the
  • undesirables-roosevelt-island-blackwell-s-island
  • https://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=753
  • https://www.gothamcenter.org/blog/an-afternoon-at-blackwells-light
  • Harper’s Weekly Archives: https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=harpersweekly
  • HARPER’S WEEKLY. A JOURNAL OF CIVILIZATION. / Volume IX, Issue 466:
    https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/h/harpersweekly/harpersweekly-idx?coll=harpersweekly;type=HTML;rgn=DIV1;id=;byte=10925913

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