This hospital sits on the site of a massive prison building that was built beginning in 1832, with later additions of wings and a workhouse. Problems with overcrowding and scandals began in the early 1900's, culminating in the relocation of inmates to new facilities on Rikers Island in 1934 and demolition of this facility in 1935. (reference)
This 986-bed hospital opened in 1939 as the first of seven "modern" medical facilities that were planned for the island in the 1930s. It was originally named the Welfare Island Hospital for Chronic Diseases and designed by Isadore Rosenfield, Butler & Kohn, and York & Sawyer. The hospital covers 9.9 acres, with seven connected buildings, shaped like chevrons to improve views of river.
The hospital was later renamed in honor of New York City Hospitals Commissioner, Dr. S. S. Goldwater, who was responsible for the hospital complex master plan. Only three of Goldwater's seven proposed buildings were ever built, including a (now-demolished) Nurse's Residence that opened 1938 just north of the current subway station and Coler Hospital on the north end of the island that opened in 1952. (reference)
In 1996 the management of the facility was merged with it's sister institution to the north to form Coler\^/Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility, comprehensive care center providing medical, rehabilitative and long-term care to all New York City residents without regard to source of payment.