Gallops Island

This small island offers a rocky beach, salt spray roses, and vistas from atop grassy bluffs.

Short History
The island was used by Native Americans. Located in the center of the harbor, the island served as home to one of the region's first harbor pilots (including John Gallop), as a restaurant and inn, a military camp, quarantine station, and radio school. During the Civil War this small island is attributed with housing 3,000 Union soldiers. During World War II a radio school housed 325 people and a school for bakers and cooks accommodated 150 people.

General Information
This island of Boston Harbor Islands national park area is managed by Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR).

Agency Designation: Harbor Islands State Park
Current Use: Park purposes
Harbor Location: Quincy Bay
Acreage: 50 (upland acres: 22.62; intertidal acres: 27.78)
Longitude: 42° 19' 31.4" North
Latitude: 70° 56' 23.7" West
Miles from Long Wharf: 6.5
Visitor Facilities & Services
Closed to Public
Visitor season:
Boat slips:
Visitor staff:
Guided tours:
Park boats:
Car access:
Flush toilets:
Composting toilets:
Group campsites:
Picnic areas:
Camping capacity:
Cooking grills:
Drinking water:
Walking trails:

On-island Circulation: The island has both mown paths and broken concrete paths paved in the 1940s. In total the paths cover approximately 3,175 feet.

Visitor Cautions: GALLOPS IS CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC. At this point in time visitors to the Park are unable to visit Gallops Island due to the presence of asbestos.

Natural History Overview
This island contains a notable collection of ornamental trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants that harken back to its use as a quarantine station and radio school. Dr. Sweeny is attributed with installing 2,500 plants in 1927 with additional trees installed by the CCC in the 1930s. No doubt many plants were removed to accomodate the radio school buildings, but others may have been added. Historical photographs from the 1940s show the tree lined "Main Street" that extended the length of the island. Though the structures are gone, the pathways and foundations are still lined with privet hedges and punctuated with fruit, shade and coniferous trees, stands of lilacs, mock orange, snowberry, and forsythia. These cultivated plants compete with encroaching self-sown sumac, poplar, poison ivy, and bayberry. Most ornamental shrubs bloom in the spring when the island is difficult to access. Fruit trees, including apple and peach, have been severely damaged in the past few years by an overpopulation of rabbits.

Survey in progress.

The island is composed of one large drumlin, rising to 79 feet on its north side and overlooking "The Narrows", a main shipping channel into Boston. The eastern end of the drumlin was removed during the early 1800s. A granite block seawall bounds the north and west sides of the island while the south and east sides offer a fine gravel beach.

Water Features
Further study required.

Views and Vistas
From the top of the drumlin, the island offers excellent views of downtown Boston, Deer, Long, Nixes Mate, Lovells, and the Brewsters. From the south side of the island, Rainsford, Peddocks, and Long Islands are visible in the distance.
  • Pier gazebo
  • Granite block foundation (c. 1860)
  • Concrete pilings from Radio School Mess Hall
  • Officer's Mess Hall foundation
  • Barracks foundations
  • Doctor's house foundation
  • Pharmacy foundation
  • Incinerator ruins
  • Clivus Multrum composting toilet
Fortifications: None

Other Structures
  • Pier
  • Navigational beacon at Peggy's Point
  • US boundary marker
  • Stone retaining wall bounding parade ground and steps to summit
  • Quarantine hospital cemetery
  • Granite block seawall (broken in sections) and jetty near pier
  • Benches
  • Picnic tables
  • Interpretive signs.
Alternate Names
Island names have changed, depending on ownership and the customs of the times. What's in a Name? lists alternate names for park islands (and a few harbor islands not within the park). Following are known names for Gallops Island:
  • Gallups Island

Last updated: February 26, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

15 State Street
4th Floor

Boston, MA 02109


(617) 223-8666

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