• Lush vegetation on the top of Spectacle Island's North drumlin dominates the foreground. Boston's skyline can be seen in the distance.  The park's logo with tag line minutes away, worlds apart empashises the stark contrast between the city and islands.

    Boston Harbor Islands

    National Recreation Area Massachusetts

Island Facts: Thompson Island

This island of diverse habitats is home to Outward Bound education center.

 
The island is home to Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, a non-profit organization that puts people in fun but challenging situations in order to help them develop teamwork, compassion and self-confidence. Activities include sailing, climbing, leadership training and environmental exploration.

The island's services include: summertime expeditions for youths ages 12-17; leadership, environmental education and summer learning programs for youth groups; and corporate teambuilding with Outward Bound Professional. Thompson Island Signature Events and Conference Center also offers catered clambakes, company outings, parties, weddings and meetings.

The island's natural features include a drumlin and a moraine; oak, tamarack, maple, and birch trees; open fields, wild flowers, and berry bushes; and 50 acres of salt marshes. It is home to many animals, including egrets, herons, peregrine falcons and hermit crabs.

 
Short History
Previously inhabited by Native Americans, David Thompson establishes a trading post on the island in 1626. During the next two centuries, ownership of the island changes several times but is used primarily for grazing livestock. In 1833 the Boston Farm School is established on Thompson Island and merges with the Boston Asylum for Boys two years later. Renamed the Boston Farm and Trade School in 1907, its vocational and farming emphasis remained until the middle of the 20th century when it was renamed Thompson Academy. In 1988, Outward Bound partnered to operate the island, creating a new entity - Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center. The island continues its mission to serve the underserved youth of Greater Boston with programs that instill teamwork, self-confidence and compassion, and encourage learning by doing.
 

General Information
This island of Boston Harbor Islands national park area is managed by Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center (TIOBEC).

Agency Designation: Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center
Current Use: Education; Event and Conference venue; park purposes
Harbor Location: Inner Harbor
Acreage: 169.9 upland acres
Highest elevation: 78 feet
Longitude: 42° 18' 53.6" North
Latitude:
71° 0' 53.3" West
Miles from Long Wharf: 4.33

 
Visitor Facilities & Services
Hours:
Summer Sundays or through TIOBEC.
Piers/Docks:
Yes
Visitor season:
Summer
Boat slips:
0
Visitor staff:
Yes
Moorings:
0
Guided tours:
Yes
Park boats:
Park tour boat
Lifeguards:
No
Car access:
No
Flush toilets:
Yes
Campsites:
0 (capacity ea: 0
Composting toilets:
Yes
Group campsites:
0 (capacity ea: 0)
Picnic areas:
Yes
Camping capacity:
0
Refreshments:
No
Cooking grills:
No
Drinking water:
Yes
Walking trails:
Yes

On-island Circulation: ISLAND OPEN TO GENERAL PUBLIC ON SUNDAYS DURING THE SUMMER SEASON. Approximately one half mile of paved roads are located in the school complex and two miles of gravel roads extend along the length of the island. Paths extend throughout the campus area and into woodland areas.

Visitor Cautions: Unsupervised use of rope courses is prohibited and is marked with warning signs.

 
Natural History Overview
Vegetation
The island is a mix of hardwood tree stands, remnant pear and apple orchards, ornamental trees and shrubs, open meadows, shrubby areas of successional growth, sumac groves, salt marsh grasses, and manicured lawns, including a soccer field.

Wildlife
Survey in progress.

Geology
The island’s highest drumlin rises to an elevation of 78 feet on the northeastern half of the island, where the school complex is located. The remainder of the island is composed of low rolling hills dissected by a wetland and salt marsh. At low tide, a sandspit and mudflats on the south side of the island almost connect with Squantum.

Water Features
Further study required.

Views and Vistas
Views to Dorchester, Downtown Boston, South Boston, Quincy (Squantum), and Long, Moon, Spectacle, and Castle Islands.
 
Structures
Buildings
  • The following is a rough list of buildings, and foundations-further verification is needed:
    • Gymnasium
    • Picnic and boat shed
    • Maintenance Building
    • Corn Barn
    • Small shed
    • Foundation of Poultry barn
    • Composting Toilet near orchard
    • Staff residence (along campus access road)
    • Foundation of administration building designed by Charles Bulfinch
    • Gardner Hall
    • Hughes Building
    • Office building
    • Dormitory (4)
    • Faculty house (2)
    • Dining hall
    • Foundation of compost shed
    • Foundation of weather station
    • Foundation of root cellar
    • Foundation of barn (barely evident)
Fortifications
  • None
Other Structures
  • Pier
  • Stone walls
  • Wood retaining wall
  • Alpine towers and ropes courses
  • Fencing for livestock (pigs)
  • Interpretive signs throughout the island
Comments
Public tours are provided on summer weekends and at other times by arrangement.

Did You Know?

View from Spectacle Island

Spectacle Island has had one of the most colorful histories of all of the Boston Harbor Islands. Once used as a dumping ground for the city of Boston, Spectacle Island now stands as a symbol of "renewal and reconnection" with over five miles of hiking trails and a solar-assisted visitor center. More...