Governors Island today blends a sense of nostalgia with 21st-century amenities. The pristine setting showcases the island’s rich history, including the vital role it played in the country’s armed forces. From its early days as the site of a British fort in the 1700s and its longstanding role as a station for the U.S. Army and the Coast Guard, to its function as a venue for political events, the island has hosted a dazzling parade of the brave and the dignified. Governors Island encompasses more than military history–it offers a vivid reflection of historic events in New York City and the world at large.
Records from Castle Williams reveal an evolving national penal system, while those from the hospital tell the story of worldwide contagion and local sanitation. Accounts of the lives of the island’s female residents offer insight into ethnic assimilation and the changing roles of women in the military, and a compendium of military and civilian recreational life on the island illuminates the changing meanings of open space and recreation over time. Ann L. Buttenwieser brings this rich legacy to life, creating a striking portrait of the island through never-before-published photographs, blueprints, architectural plans, and interviews with former residents.
Ann L. Buttenwieser is an urban planner and waterfront historian and the author of Manhattan Water-Bound: Manhattan’s Waterfront from the Seventeenth Century to the Present. She serves on The Skyscraper Museum Board of Directors.