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Home > SPJ News > The Octagon on New York City's Roosevelt Island named Historic Site in Journalism

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The Octagon on New York City's Roosevelt Island named Historic Site in Journalism


7/28/2016


Contacts: Abbi Martzall, SPJ Awards Coordinator, (317) 920-4791, amartzall@spj.org
Rachel Semple, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 920-4785, rsemple@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists has named the Octagon on New York City’s Roosevelt Island as a Historic Site in Journalism.

Since 1942, the Society has honored the people and places that have played important roles in the history of journalism through the Historic Sites program. Some honorees include: Freedom’s Journal, the first Black newspaper published in the United States, and The Wheeling Intelligencer, the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in West Virginia.

The Octagon is an ornate stone building built in 1841 to house psychiatric patients in its two L-shaped wings. Patients brought to the island by boat were separated from the rest of society in what Charles Dickens referred to as a “lounging, listless, madhouse air.”

In 1887, Nellie Bly was sent to the island after acting strangely. Though she received the same treatment as the patients, Bly was there only on assignment from newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Her work “10 Days in a Madhouse” is considered among the first pieces of investigative journalism and led to improvements in treatment of psychiatric patients.

The building remained open until 1955, later deteriorating until it was partially restored as the Octagon that stands now.

A bronze plaque will be placed at the Octagon to distinguish it as a National Historic Site in Journalism. See a complete list of past winners here.

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