Field Report: Looks Like Demolition, but Not Quite

Field Report: Looks Like Demolition, but Not Quite

These buildings look like they’ve been 1/2 demolished, but in fact the real demolition work hasn’t yet begun. For the past several weeks, workers have been meticulously removing potentially hazardous materials, like asbestos found in window caulk, from the “Dog Bone” buildings in preparation for demolition. Once these buildings are “clean,” it won’t take very long for the excavator machines to tear them down.

25 Responses

  1. I never lived on Governors Island except for my stay when I was born in the hospital there. My father was stationed at Mitchel Field on Long Island, and they had no hospital at that time. I was told I was born during a snow storm that January so long ago in 1939. My dad was also a Master Sergeant at that time. We moved from Mitchel Field to Langley Field, VA late 1940, and were living there in December 1941 when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. We were not allowed off the base and later returned to Long Island to live near my mom’s family. My dad shipped overseas in early 1942. He was then in New Guinea and Australia. We did not see him again for two years. When he returned home, he was stationed in Texas (us too) for two years. He left the military in mid-1946. We lived in upstate New York for awhile and then settled on Long Island. My mom lived in our house on Long Island for 50 years until her death. My husband and I have lived in CT now for many years. Wish I could have known Governors Island in my youth.

    Joan Brown Langer

    • hi joan,

      my name is harold brady and i would like to get a copy of a birth certificate for someone born at governors island hospital in 1936. do you have any idea of how i should go about it?

      appreciate any information you might provide, take care.

  2. We didn’t know about the reunion or the closing events. Years later a friend said he attended the closing of the island and he bought a to shirt it said, “I Was There the Day They Closed Governors Island.

    While Mac was in Korea we lived in Brooklyn and used to go to Fort Hamilton to the hospital.

    My father served in Company “G”, 304th Infantry 76th Division. I know that in March of 1945 he crossed the Kyll River in Germany. Then he was in the 88th Military Police Company (Corps). He ran the post stockade I think (Castle Williams) then he was always in the Provost Marshalls Office.

    Does the name Col. Maslow ring a bell? He was much older than my father.

  3. Wonderful you’ve shared these stories, both of you, Mary and Jerry! I’m far younger than either of you and I lived in one of these ‘dog bone’ places as a young ET serving in the Coast Guard (bldg 866) for the most part of my enlistment. While one part of me is sad that they will be torn down and this part of the island’s history obliterated, another part of me is simply amused as I remember the horrible cockroach infestation in all the enlisted housing and wonder where the millions will go when the buildings come down. I can see them, millions and millions of cockroaches in varying sizes all fleeing off in a line like lemmings into the sea. Jerry, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sure she’s waiting just the other side for her sweet beau!

    • Susan Saunders(?), Your building was on the Statue of Liberty side, while mine was on the east side, with Brooklyn across the Buttermilk Channel. I,m surprised you mentioned cockroaches, because I never saw one in my years. No matter where you lived, it was a delightful place, especially we who were kids there, while you were on duty there. I simply hate what they are doing to OUR Island, where strangers were prohibited except on Sundays when the poio matches were played. A veritable private country club 5 minutes from the Bowery.

      • HI Jerry. What years were you there? And I agree; in spite of cockroaches in the building, I loved GovIs and am always a bit sad seeing it torn apart and turned into a park. I had no idea it was only open on Sundays!
        One of my strongest memories of GovIs life was that there was simply so MUCH one could do. There were all manner of sports (basketball, racketball, baseball to name a few), swimming, bowling, movies, a goodly variety of clubs and activity groups. Add to that all the recreational trip options for we enlisted folk, then add all of NYC at our doorstep.
        Although born in Mt Sinai up in Manhattan, my first two children’s first home was GovIs as well, so it holds many wonderful memories even beyond that magical night with the horseshoe crabs.

      • Susan, I was 18 months old when I arrived on the Island in 1926, and left in 1942 when I enlisted in the Arrmy Air Corps. There were always jobs for kids who wanted, and I was one of those, delivering papers, caddying, delivering groceries from the Post Exchange, delivering dry cleaning, and Post theater ushering (75 cents a night and uniforms for working two showings a night, every night a different first run picture). Other kids worked a little bit (caddies were allowed to play the golf course after five PM, otherwise the course was open to officers families). I developed my lifelong enthusiasm for golf there, on that short 9-hole course.

        There were only two bowling lanes on the Island then, both in the basement of the officers club. Before WW2, the Army was very divided between officers and non-officers, so the only way I could get into the officers club was to set pins in the alleys. Rather than find these little jobs, most kids hung out at the pool behind the YMCA. Mr. Joyce, the Post plumber, lived in Bldg 111, as did I, overlooking the pool in back and the Buttermilk Channel in front. Yhere were never chemicals used in the pool water, as Mr. Joyce drained the pool every Thursday night, and had prisoners from Castle Bill scrub the empty pool with soap, before refilling. While it was draining, Mr. Joyce allowed my German Shepherd dog to swim in the pool.

      • Jerry you did it again – another good story for a children’s book about soapsuds and the dog! I learned to swim in that pool (swimming lessons). The baby pool and the lions head that spurted water in the big pool were my favorite spots. We had to pass a test given by the lifeguards demonstrating swimming butterfly and underwater, float, and doggie paddle. To swim in the big pool we had wear a white felt letter on our bathing suites. B for beginner- shallow end, I for the intermediate – middle and or A advanced for deep end. There were ropes separating the areas you couldn’t get in the pool without the letter on your suite.

        We used to go to the Army beach on Fort Tilden to swim in the ocean. I think it was in Long Island because I remember traveling on the belt Pkwy.

        Mr. Cavanaugh was the caddy master in the 1950s/60s. He wasn’t regular Army but something else I forget the term. I never golfed but we used to go sledding on the big hill on the golf course.

        The bowling ally was in a wooden building on the other side of the island not far from Bldg. 866. I never saw the bowling ally in the Officer’s Club maybe it was closed by my time on GI.

        Many a rainy afternoon was spent in the Officer’s Club telephone room. It was in the lobby on the right side of the room. We were thrilled there was a room just for a telephone. We would close the door to the phone room, sit on the floor and call phone numbers listed in the NYC telephone book. We would tell people they won a contest (I forget it was a popular TV show) then burst out laughing and hang up. We never did get caught. All of us were children of enlisted men. It was still very separate officers and enlisted kids didn’t really mingle.

        Every night except Sat. Sun. a different movie played. A movie cost a nickel for a child and a quarter for an adult. Sat. matinees were always cowboys and Indians.

        Sometimes my father used to go fishing on the Generals boat. He would bring home blue fish, which my mother would always cook. If the fish wasn’t cleaned she wouldn’t cook it and he would stand in the yard and say fish the women would come running to get it.

        Susan listen to your friends and use your talent to write …..

    • Hi Jerry & Susan, greetings from Leesburg Fl. I am thrilled to get your replies. It was a privilege to grow up on Governors Island. In 1948 they didn’t deliver high-risk babies on the island so I was delivered in Fort Totten. I lived on the island until my dad went to Korea. When he returned we lived on Camp Kilmer for 1 year and returned to GI until he retired.
      I did go to PS 3 but missed going to Curtis High because my father retired with 271/2 years in when I was in the 7th. grade. I recall the quarters by the YMCA/ swimming pool, my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Weisenflu lived there. Thursdays after school we used to go to see Miss Jones in Staten Island for accordion lessons. It was a different time when kids could take 2 ferries and safely walk to Miss Jones apt. by themselves.

      Memories of the island will always be a part of me. I can remember the sweet smell of honey suckle as we walked past the tennis courts on the way to the YMCA for ice cream, and the fun we had chasing the DDT truck during the summer months. I remember the ice-skating rink, our garden plot, and meals at the NCO Club; the fountain behind the club was fun to walk on. We had great fun playing in the moat, which was off limits. We weren’t allowed to climb on the cannons in front to the protestant church and we could always spot the visitors during open house because the boys would always climb on them. Holidays were a big thing on the island. It was always a treat to go to the mess hall on Thanksgiving, Easter hat contests at the Y, egg hunts in the park, tricker treat all over the island. Winter was cold and special, sledding down the hill on the golf course provided hours of fun.

      I made mistake we lived in BLDG. 12G2 not 112. Our quarters were beautiful, Buttermilk Channel in the front and the park/officers housing in the rear. My mother never wanted an officer’s wife to see inside because our housing was better than some of the officer’s housing. Fast forward to around 1960 we had to move to BLDG. 866, you’re building! We lived in 3F; the view of the Statue of Liberty was amazing her light shined like a night-light in my bedroom. Its no wonder they tore those buildings down they were very poorly built. The first winter we lived there the heat didn’t work right so we had to bundle up because it was so cold that my parakeet froze to death. In the shower you could hear the conversations from the apts. above and below.

      • Mary Ellen, Disclosure: I will be 88 in May, so memory may fail a bit.

        The teachers at PS 3 Annex were in my time, and some even there still when the Coast Guard arrived, were: Miss Cohen (used Mrs. Colby after she was married) was principal, and taught K-2, Miss Wilderman taught 3-5, (was possibly replaced by Miss Curie, who also taught French to interested students, and my personal favorite Mrs Rials, 6-8. On my wall I have hanging a photo of my graduating class in 1938, some of whom I remain in touch with. Imagine the difficulty teaching three classes in one room! Amazing.

        We moved into the new school in the early 30’s, when the WPA was doing most of the construction on the Island. Most people don’t know that Governors Island was the major supply point for materials heading to Europe during WW1, and that the Island was laced with railroad tracks with locomotives unloading RR cars of war materials into the dozens of warehouses around the “fill” (dumped at the end of the Island from soil removed during subway excavation), some of the still standing were demolished to make room for the building where Susan lived.

        My uncle, !st Sgt William Keough, had retired the year I was born,1925, having enlisted at age 15 to fight in the Spanish American War. As a civilian, he was the co-ordinator of the only fuel used on the Island, Coal. The barges would bring coal-laden RR cars on barges, and he had a locomotive (left from the GIRR) and an engineer, and a crew, and a roundhouse, so coal would be off-loaded from a trestle into graded piles for redistribution to the homes and barracks.

        My building, #111 was populated mostly with permanent party: Post plumber Mr. Joyce, Fire Chief Mt. Fraser, Sgt Robinson Head of Cooks and Bakers School, etc. Brilliant Post Electrician, Mr. Stunkard preferred to stay in his quarters in the Soap Suds Row. The Commanding Officers assigned quarters was the first house on the Brick Row. General Nolan’s house was in the General’s Row, while adross the park (later named Nolan Park) was the Colonel’s Row. I delivered newspapers before school and after school, so I knew every name on the Island, and what they read. Enough for now. Jerry

      • Wow Mrs. Colby was my second grade teacher!

      • One spring I picked my mother a bouquet of spring flowers from the Colonel’s wife’s garden (Colonel’s Row). I couldn’t understand why my mother was upset about it.

      • I’ve so enjoyed reading these and the little walk down memory lane it took me on! I lived in 6F, just three floors up and yes, the view of the Statue of Liberty out my front window was amazing, and paired well with the view of Manhattan from the bedroom window! I often wondered what rent one would pay for such a view in a competitive housing market!
        We didn’t have heat loss except once in the years I lived there (approx 1980-1983) but I recall the one time we did, it killed my neighbours beautiful little love birds. She was so sad! The heat was only off for four hours. :( We were more prone to A/C issues and the horrific infestation issues I mentioned before. There is just nothing that says ‘home’ like turning on your kitchen light and seeing the entire walls and ceiling MOVE in a brown flurry. We were told it was caused from the disused garbage drop that stood directly behind our kitchen counters. :( Hideous.
        Life has taken me far away; after returning to Oregon to raise my family there when I left the Coast Guard, I’ve moved to and live in Melbourne, Australia. So hello and cheers from sunny summer!

      • Roaches freak me out I can’t imagine how you endured them. We were one of the first occupants to move into bldg. 866 it was brand new housing. It could have been 1959 my memory is very poor. I can’t recall how we did the laundry but I do remember the garbage drop. We thought it was a wonderful convenience, open the door to the garbage room and throw garbage down the chute. For us the garbage drop and elevators (always broken) were great a convenience. Such poor planning ….I wonder when they stopped using it.

        I outgrew the children’s library (table and rocking chairs) but building 866 was close to the bowling ally. I would run across (I think the baseball field) to the bowling ally get a take out hamburger (they were the best) run home and read Nancy Drew books.

        This trip down memory lane makes me want to see the island again. The last time I was there the island was abandoned. This may have been prior to Coast Guard arrival but after the Army left. Anyway, I was supposed to go to the Worlds Fair and was riding the subway with my boyfriend when I saw the South Ferry exit and I said we have to get off and go to Governors Island. I had my ID card and they let us on the island. I took my friend on a personal tour. The
        witches hat was no longer in the playground across from Nolan’s Park. Building 12 apt. G2 door was unlocked we went inside to see the house that I grew up in. We spent the entire day on a walking tour and never saw another soul, car or bus. We never made it to the World’s Fair.

      • Mary Ellen, Before WW2, Governors Island was headquarters of the Second Corps Area, the 16th, 18th, and 26th Infantries. The 16th was stationed there (I think the 18th was at Fort Hamilton, and the 26th may have been at Fort Slocum). Those of us who were there as kids when the 16th was there, have had two reunions 0n the Island before the Coast Guard inhabited it, one reunion was joined by a photographer and reporter from the N.Y. Times, and the story ran that week. I understand the kids from the Coast Guard era also had one or two reunions after the Island was “closed down”, and before the City and State knew what to do with it after it was offered to them for one dollar.

      • I had a garbage flash back during mass this morning. I liked the garbage room because it was my job to empty the garbage. There was a bin it was “attached to the building” and the garbage used to pile high especially in the winter when it snowed. My mother hated that and said we would have rats. Thank goodness I never saw rat or a bug. I do remember the huge heels all over the place after heavy rains.

      • Unfortunately, by the time I lived there, that garbage room was permanently locked shut and the entire building (plus 855 and 844!) was completely infested with roaches. The Island command came through and did a major spraying once every 6 months but they were clearly immune to the poisons by that point as they would flood back in within a month. We often spoke around the buildings that they did NOT ever open and spray that garbage shoot, though.
        At least we didn’t have rodents, though. I don’t recall ever seeing a rat nor mouse in the years there.
        My coolest memory ever from Governors Island was the night I went for a walk, and as I walked past the officers quarters region walking around the rim of the island, I saw something writhing at the edge of the water. It was a full moon on a low tide (I know now these were important facts but didn’t at the time). I looked closer and realized the movement I saw was dozens to hundreds of horse shoe crabs mating. I have no idea how long I stood there simply transfixed! I’d never seen one before outside of pictures and videos!
        Amazing!

      • Betweem WW1 and WW2, Armu personnel were stationed at Fort Wood, in the base of the Statue of Liberty. It was a small operation, and only a handful of kids lived there, certainly not enough to warrant a school, so those kids were ferried every morning in the Generals Launch, to attend classes at the Governors Island post school, returning after school to the Statue. Occasionally the Fort Wood kids would challenge us to football, so some of us from the Island would ride home with them to Bedloes Island, play a quick game on their turf, while the Generals Launch waited to take us back. The skipper of the Generals Launch at that time was Sgt. Shapiro, and the care & feeding of the Launch was his sole duty. The Shapiro’s lived right beneath us in Bldg. 111. Several of us older boys acted as unpaid crew when
        Gen. Drum would take an evening cruise up the Hudson River, across the Harlem River, and back to Fort Jay by 10PM. A fairyland for kids.

      • Hello Sandy & Jerry: Thanks for sharing your history, yourselves, your talents. Both of you are creative talented writers. Are you published authors? If not you should be. Jerry your story of the General’s launch and the experiences you shared with the boys from the Statue of Liberty would start a wonderful children’s series. A collection of stories about growing up on GI. The books would be a creative adventure, interesting and preserve history like only you could tell. I can imagine the illustrations would be fantastic! Sandy I loved the story about the horseshoe crabs what great reading. I know there would be interest perhaps the National Park Service would sell in a gift shop proceeds to the GI trust….
        I had a brain tumor removed so my writing and punctuation well let’s just say I left it on the OR table. But I can recognize something big and wonderful here that you 2 could really run with.
        Another idea would be to ask for people that grew up on the island to send their stories to go into 1 big collection of stories. We just did that at work. To incorporate Jean Watson’s Caring Science in our VA clinic I asked the nurses to author – share their Caritas Stories. This was for our 2012 Nurse’s Week celebration. 2 friends – nurse colleagues edited the stores added illustrations and we had the print shop bound a print. Other NF/SG VA CBOCs and OPCs are now doing the same thing. I would love to send you both a copy if you would like our stories are about special moments caring for Veterans.

      • Mary Ellen, Thanks for the good words. I do a lot of writing, mostly about policy, and mostly to newspapers, magazines, and columnists. Much of it gets into print. My son David France (Google him for his bio) was an editor at Newsweek, Glamour, New York mag and others, has several award winning books in the Library of Congress, and has just completed a documentary that has been nominated for an Oscar, “How To Survive A Plague”. So if you are watching the Academy Awards Feb 24, you may see him. Some of his books have been made into movies as well. He is the writer, not me. He was the one who arranged for the NY Times to tour the Island when we held our reunion.

        When our first Great granddaughter was born, I wrote a children’s story for her, and my wife Georgianne, an accomplished artist, illustrated it. I stumbled on it the other day, and considered making copies for our other eight eight who arrived later. I ramble.

      • Hi Mary,
        No, I’ve never written anything that I tried to publish but I did have a few teachers through the years (and a few friends) who have certainly encouraged me to try. (I’m guessing you meant me as I’m the one who saw those amazing horseshoe crabs mating in the moonlit night).
        One of these days I’ll get around to starting perhaps. I have a son with high functioning autism and I have at least a book’s worth of hilarious anecdotes and not-so-funny truths about raising a brilliant autistic child in a not-so-brilliant, not-so-autistic world. It was one heck of an adventure. (He’s now turning 30 and starting his own with an 18 month old son). And yes, he was one of the two children I gave birth to while living on Governors Island, but I left when he was just 7 weeks of age.

  4. Buildings pictured were constructed for the large detachment of Coast Guard families. They have served their purpose, and can now disappear. Before they were erected, the barracks was the tallest building on the post, standing four floors. The Wright brothers flight would not have cleared the barracks, but the barracks had not been built yet. Building #111 (where I lived) and Building #119 were quarters for Post NCO families, while Buildings #160 and #161 housed Officer’s families. These were all apartment buildings of only three floors, none with elevators. I lived a childhood on this beautiful Army base, leaving only to enlist in the Army during World War 2. When I returned from the European war, I married the stunning Georgianne Beurket, daughter of the wartime Post Commanding Officer, Col. George Beurket. Georgianne died this past August, after 66 years of wonderful marriage. Jerry Keough France.

    • correction: There was no Bldg.#119. Typo, should be 112. Jerry Keough France

      • I too lived a childhood on Fort Jay. We lived in Bldg. 112 G2 for seven years. The attic, basement and witches hat in the backyard were my favorite places to play. We used to crawl thru a basement passageway that connected our building to Building 111.

        My dad was Master Sergeant (E8) John William McGarrahan. He was stationed on Governors Island before WW11 and again after the Korean conflict.

      • Mary Ellen, I lived on the Island from 1926 until 1942. You were obviously younger than I, because I never knew any McGarrahans. You probably were in the Post School (PS #3 Annex) when I went to Curtis High ’38 to ’42. Bldg, # 111, where I lived, overlooked to Y pool.

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