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?
At the start of American entry into World War I and just before leaving Governors Island in May 1917 to lead the 2 million soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force in France, General John J. Pershing (1860-1948) ran uptown into Manhattan to register early for the draft of the very army he was leading to France. He was going to be busy and out of town on draft registration day.