Governors Island has quite a lot of history to it, considering its tiny 172 acre size- — and it started even smaller than that.
Originally only about 69 acres, it was an ideal place for fishing camps for Native Manahatas Indians. In 1637, a Dutchman purchased it from them for two axe heads, a string of beads, and a handful of nails.
It was claimed by the British in the 1660s and when Americans declared independence, it was a major strategic location in the Battle of Brooklyn. General George Washington retreated from Brooklyn across the island and then over the 800 yards of water to Manhattan.
In the early 1900s, the island was expanded to approximately 172 acres using nearly 5 million cubic feet of rock and dirt. Later it was home to America’s first incinerator. It has been administrated by the United States Army and the United States Coast Guard, and now decommissioned belongs to the City of New York.
Visitors can see remnants of this history in the cannon emplacements and museums, but largely it has become a summer sanctuary, a place to get away from the business of the city and enjoy the sun in the island’s hammock grove or walking along its shores.
Know Before You Go
Accessible from Ferry by 1 Train at South Ferry Station