The 122-year-old Frost Memorial Tower sits atop a hill on Staten Island and sends the most accurate and depressing message a hospital could send about the human condition: nothing can stave off the eventual destruction wrought by age and decay. It's the sort of unwritten inscription one will only read in a hospital building's disintegrating lines as weather and age take their toll; it's not cornerstone material. Nathan Kensinger recently visited the Samuel R. Smith Infirmary, Richmond County's first volunteer hospital founded in 1890. The facility was renamed Staten Island Hospital in 1916, until the hospital moved and the site was abandoned in 1979. The Frost Memorial Tower has its fans, however, and some would like the building to be preserved, despite the damage caused by salvage strippers, wayward drug addicts and the homeless, and vandals. If it's eventually decided that the "Staten Island Castle" is worth saving, it would certainly be a long convalescence before the building could be restored to anything like its former state.
· Samuel R. Smith Infirmary [Nathan Kensinger Photography]