ISLAND ARCHIVES: A bi-weekly look at Governors Island’s picturesque past

Arrival on Governors Island in 1896 looked like this.

From 1832-1920, the New York Arsenal was located on Governors Island. Both active armaments and obsolete weaponry was stored on the north end of the Island over the course of those years. The New York Arsenal did not manufacture arms, but its staff inspected, purchased and took delivery of arms and artillery from private contractors. The arsenal also functioned as a warehouse and as a distribution center of arms to Army posts across the country.

The arsenal was established on 6.5 acres in and around the area now occupied by Pershing Hall. The location was behind and downhill from Fort Jay, allowing a clear field of fire towards the harbor from the fort’s cannons. After the Civil War, the fields of fire were no longer required, and the arsenal expanded along the Island’s north shore toward Castle Williams. The arsenal buildings are some of the oldest on the Island and include Building 104, constructed in 1843 as an ordnance storehouse (pictured above at the top center.) This building later housed a museum of military artifacts, whose contents were later taken over by the Smithsonian.

Arrival on the Island near Pier 101 meant a walk past dozens of canon and expansive piles of canon balls and other munitions. With the introduction of ferries from Brooklyn in 2008, visitors to the Island now experience a similar Island approach but are met with a far more recreational prospect!

Arrival to the Island from Brooklyn in 2010

Thanks to our neighbors at the National Park Service for sharing a wonderful collection of historic Governors Island Images.

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