History & Culture
Daniel C. Krebs
Governors Island lies a few hundred yards off the southern tip of Manhattan, at the confluence of the Hudson and East Rivers in New York Harbor. The island's fortifications - Fort Jay and Castle Williams - served as an early outpost to protect New York City from enemy naval attack and were an integral part of a larger coastal defense network.
Fort Jay and Castle Williams were erected between 1796 and 1811 as part of the First and Second American Systems of Fortification. They are among the finest examples of defensive structures in use from the Renaissance to the American Civil War and sit within a larger National Historic Landmark District, surrounded by unparalleled views of the harbor and New York City skyline.
Governors Island was a military post and later a major command headquarters United States Army from 1794 until 1966. For the next 30 years, it was home to Atlantic Area Command, the U.S. Coast Guard's largest and most complex installation in the world.
In 2003, the island was sold and transferred to two parties: 22 acres, designated as the Governors Island National Monument and administered by the National Park Service; and 150 acres is administered by The Trust for Governors Island. Today, city and federal agencies are planning the future of this former military installation into new public parkland and a spectacular destination in New York Harbor.
At this time, Governors Island is open to the public on a seasonal basis. Public services and facilities are very limited. For the most current information, please check this website or call the park directly at 212-825-3045.
Did You Know?
Oliver Otis Howard (1830-1909), from Maine, graduated from West Point in 1856. During the Civil War, he fought at Manassas; Fair Oaks – where he lost his right arm; Antietam; Chancellorsville; Gettysburg; Chattanooga; Atlanta; and participated in the march across Georgia. In 1865 he headed the Freedmans’ Bureau, which resettled and enforced the rights of newly freed African-American slaves in the South. His interest in their education led him to establish Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. From 1886 to the end of his Army career, he commanded the U.S. Army in the Eastern United States from Governors Island.