Long Island

This large island is home to City of Boston social service facilities and Long Island Head Light.


Short History
The island was likely used by Native Americans. During the colonial period, the island was granted to Boston then leased and later sold to tenant farmers. During King Philip's War, Christian Indians were relocated from Deer Island to relieve overcrowding and starvation. During the American Revolution, patriots constructed defensive batteries and a skirmish ensued. A rudimentary lighthouse was built on the head in 1794 followed by a more prominent tower in 1819. The light was later moved to accommodate coastal fortifications. Military use resumed during the Civil War, when the island was a conscript camp and an extensive armament was installed. Defenses were modernized in the early Endicott Period, but were never used. In the midnineteenth century a resort was situated in the center of the island while a Portuguese fishing community grew along the shore. In 1882, the City of Boston took the island for institutional care facilities: first an almshouse, later a home for unwed mothers, a chronic disease hospital, nursing school and institutional farm, and now for more than a dozen social service programs.

Long Island Head Light is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. For more information about the facility, please go to the National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program Inventory of Historic Light Stations.


General Information
This island of Boston Harbor Islands national park area is managed by City of Boston.

Agency Designation: Public Health Commission campus; Long Island Head Light
Current Use: Aid to navigation; health services; park purposes
Harbor Location: InnerHarbor; Quincy Bay
Acreage: 225.2
Highest elevation: 95 feet
Longitude: 42° 19' 13.3" North
Latitude: 70° 57' 55.8" West
Miles from Long Wharf: 7.33
Visitor Facilities & Services
Public access to Long Island is restricted.
By arrangement
Visitor season:
Boat slips:
Visitor staff:
Guided tours:
Park boats:
Car access:
Flush toilets:
0 (capacity ea: 0)
Composting toilets:
Group campsites:
0 (capacity ea: 0)
Picnic areas:
Camping capacity:
Cooking grills:
Drinking water:
Walking trails:


On-island Circulation: Public access is restricted: A guardhouse and gate are located at the tip of Squantum in Quincy. A 3,050-foot two-lane steel bridge connects Long Island to Moon Island. On the island there is a 1.2-mile paved road from causeway to hospital grounds, almost one mile of roads looping through the Long Island campus, and an additional mile of rough road extending out to Long Island Head.

Visitor Cautions: PUBLIC ACCESS IS RESTRICTED. Gun emplacements at northern end of the island contain several serious hazards including: open pits, eroding stairs and broken handrails and ladders. Vacant and deteriorating buildings in Fort Strong and the Long Island campus pose safety issues. The Long Island viaduct does not have a pedestrian walk.

Natural History Overview
Long Island contains an abundance of cultivated and naturalized plant species that merit a more detailed study as part of a Cultural Landscape Report for the island. The oldest trees are located within the Long Island Campus including shade trees and remnants of an apple orchard. There are also many ornamental shrubs and perennials. Long Island Head was devoid of woody vegetation until the closure of Fort Strong and is now undergoing rapid succession with species such as sumac and poplar. The East Head of the island contains an extensive grove of pine, most likely planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The freshwater wetland on the southwest side of the island is likely to contain a diversity of plant species. A community garden within the Long Island Campus and the nursery for the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands Revegetation Project also contribute to the botanical diversity on the island.

Survey in progress.

The island is composed of three drumlins, reaching an elevation of 95 feet. The northeastern point is known as Long Island Head, the southwestern end as West Head, and a small point on the southeastern side as Bass Point. A fresh water marsh is located on the west side of island between Bass Point and West Head. Extensive tidal flats surround the island.

Water Features
An enormous water tower on the central drumlin in the Long Island Campus supplies water and water pressure for hydrants. The checkered red and white pattern on the tower is used by the FAA for navigation into Logan Airport. The location of Fort Strong water systems requires further research.

Views and Vistas
Geographically situated in the center of the harbor, Long Island with its checkered water tower, bridge and lighthouse are visible from many points. Conversely the island offers excellent views of most of the islands in the middle and outer harbor.
  • NIKE missile facilities (2 buildings - vacant)
  • Dept. Environmental Protection and Boston Edison Air Monitoring Stations
  • Farm
  • Greenhouse (2 structures)
  • Laundry building
  • Garage
  • Firehouse
  • Morris Building
  • Curley Recreation building (vacant)
  • Tobin Building
  • MacGillivary Building
  • Wards A-D
  • Richards Building
  • Laboratory and Morgue (vacant)
  • Incinerator (behind morgue - vacant)
  • Powerhouse
  • Administration Building
  • Nichols Building
  • Chapel Building 6 (vacant)
  • Nurses Building (vacant)
  • Sewerage Treatment Plan
  • Fort Strong powerhouse
  • Fort Strong incinerator
  • Fort Strong siting tower
  • Long Island Head Lighthouse
  • Fort Strong
  • Battery Ward
  • Battery Hitchcock
  • Battery Drum
  • Battery Bassinger
  • Battery Smyth
  • Battery Taylor
  • Battery Stevens
Other Structures
  • Viaduct (bridge - not open to public)
  • Pier (not open to public)
  • Civil War monument and Cemetery
  • Hospital Cemetery (3,000)
  • Water tower
  • Unmarked cemetery
  • MWRA shaft
  • Granite block seawall
Long Island Head Light is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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 Little Brewster Island:
  • Beacon Island (1715)
  • Light House Island

Last updated: March 29, 2022

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