ISLAND ARCHIVES: A Bi-Weekly Look at Governors Islands Picturesque Past

The Changing Faces of the Governors House

Governors House facing Nolan Park in 1896.  Photo Courtesy of NPS

Same view today

The Governors House, perched prominently on a bluff overlooking the original access point to the Island, is the Island’s oldest habitable structure. The original building was a simple cross shape with two story porticos.  The 1896 photo above shows the building in 1896. It had already morphed from its original shape to include porches on each floor with ornate railings and a number of wood frame infill additions.  As the use of the building shifted from guardhouse to commanding officers quarters to offices and back again to quarters, so did the building’s appearance.

The greatest change came in the 1930s when an aggressive rehabilitation wrapped the rear (Buttermilk Channel) side of the building in a one story addition with garage and veranda. The balconies were removed and the current Colonial Revival style entrance portico added.  This little piece of Governors Island history was charming in any era but its brick facades show the scars of all the changes and of the myriad attempts to repair its brick walls.  The many evidences of change were hidden by the paint covering this building through the 1920s. Take a look at the wild patchwork of brick and brick repair next time you are out here.

 

Governors House Facing the Buttermilk Channel. Photo Courtesy of NPS

 

Same view today

Take a look at the Linden Tree and London Plane trees at the right of these images. Amazing what a little time (north of 125 years) can do!

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