Island Archives: Looking over the Island

We’ve been having lots of fun updating you on what is underway and coming up on Governors Island. As a change of pace, we thought we’d have a visit from Island Archives and share a great panorama of the island from 1938. The image is in three parts so stay tuned for further views. Here, you can see  the southern end of the historic district with views of Liggett Hall and down onto the fairly empty landfill.  Lots of early WWI storage facilities were already torn down while the building boom of the early Coast Guard years was still three decades away. In the foreground you can see a row of barracks and a playground long gone.

Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service.Annotation on the image are from the original.

Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service.
Annotation on the image are from the original.

Thanksgiving on Governors Island (a recipe)

We’re putting down the jackhammers and hanging up our safety vests for Thanksgiving. We wish you all a happy and healthy feast.

And from the Enlisted Men’s Wives Club of Governors Island Cookbook, here’s a fun twist on a Thanksgiving fave:

Spoiler alert: IT’S BANANAS!

Island Archives: Island Cuisine

Next season on Governors Island visitors will enjoy an array of tasty food choices, but good eating has a long history on the island. During the Coast Guard period, upwards of 5,000 people a day could be found living and/or working on the island. Among them was a group called the “Enlisted Mens Wives Club.” One of their projects was a comprehensive cookbook of favorite recipes from the islands chefs.

The menus are varied and diverse from “Drunk Meatballs” to bagels to “Banana Breeze Pie.” The book also includes some cooking basics and conversion charts for new cooks and charmingly illustrated chapter breaks.

If Cabbage Soup isn’t your thing, perhaps a nice hash?

The cookbook even provides ideas for the weight conscious.

If you see anything that looks good, go ahead, cook it up and let us know what you think!

How Much Do You Know About Governors Island? (updated)

Celebrate the holidays by taking this quiz on Governors Island!

Updated: New and improved with answers highlighted in red!

Earlier this week, all of the staff on Governors Island got into the spirit of the season with our annual holiday party. As a part of the festivities, we have a quiz on all things Governors Island.

This year, Able Engineering, who handles maintenance here, won in a landslide.

How well do you know the Island? Take the quiz below and find out! (Answers will be posted next week).

1.  Which figure in American history is NOT depicted on the WPA murals located in Pershing Hall?        

  1. Theodore Roosevelt
  2. Benedict Arnold
  3. Robert E. Lee
  4. Paul Revere

2.  During the Coast Guard era, there was a day care center on the Island. What was the monthly cost for child care during this period?

  1. $0                                                                                                                                          
  2. $6
  3. $15
  4. $110

3.  What was the runner-up name for Molly Brown in the naming contest?                     

  1. Sandy
  2. Salty
  3. Ginger
  4. Hello Gritty Kitty

4.  Approximately how many cubic yards of land fill were brought to Governors Island at the turn of the 20th century to make up the southern part of the Island?

  1. 475,000                                                                                                                                           
  2. 540,000
  3. 1,250,000
  4. 4,800,000

5.  Approximately how many cubic yards of land fill will be brought to Governors Island to complete the park & public space plan?    

  1. 475,000
  2. 540,000
  3. 1,250,000
  4. 4,800,000

6. Which feature was removed from the Governors House in the 1930s?              

  1. The widow’s walk
  2. A dry moat
  3. The 3rd floor
  4. Two-story porches

7.  Approximately, how many bottles of champagne were consumed at the 2011 Veuve Clicquot Polo Match?                                                                                                                                            

  1. 600
  2. 1,200
  3. 3,000
  4. 6,000

8. What is the official name of the color of the Nolan Park Houses?                                

  1. Buttercup yellow
  2. Sunshine by osmosis yellow
  3. French yellow
  4. Saffron yellow

 9.  The cannons in front of the Commanding Officer’s House were acquired from which war?         

  1. The War of 1812
  2. The Spanish American War
  3. World War I
  4. World War II

10. What color will the MTA Tunnel Vent Shaft be after the Park and Public Space project is complete?

  1. Orange in honor of the Dutch
  2. White
  3. Nautical Red
  4. Different colors every night like the Empire State Building

11.  Which body of water does NOT surround Governors Island?                                              

  1. Hudson River
  2. East River
  3. Buttermilk Channel
  4. Upper New York Bay

12.  How may runs does the Coursen make in the average month? (A run is considered from GI and back)                                                                                                                         

  1. 68
  2. 140
  3. 260
  4. 320

13.  In 1903, how many acres was Governors Island?                                                             

  1. 92
  2. 111
  3. 150
  4. 172

14. Which aviator has NOT landed on Governors Island?                                                 

  1. Wilbur Wright
  2. Glenn Curtis
  3. Captain “Sully” Sullenberger
  4. Major Henry H. “Hap” Arnold

If you really think you know the Island, try your hand at the bonus questions below! 


One point for each question answered correctly!

  1. Who was responsible for building the first church on the Island? Dr. John McVickar in 1847
  2. True or false: Governors Island was once connected to Manhattan? True (tens of thousands of years ago)
  3. Wouter van Twiller, who originally purchased Governors Island from the Lenape, inspired stories based on his appearance and temper. Which famous American wrote these stories and what were they called? Knickerbocker Tales by Washington Irving
  4. Which GI building was NOT part of the NY arsenal located on the island until WWI? Building 108
  5. Who was Nolan Park named after?  Major General Dennis Nolan

Want to Come to Governors Island in the Middle of the Week?

Rangers give tours of Governors Island on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Governors Island is open every Friday-Sunday and all holiday Mondays from now through September 25. But did you know that you can have special weekday access to the Island on Wednesdays and Thursdays?
On these days, you can take a “Hike Through the National Historic Landmark District” and “Journey to the Past” with the National Park Service on the Island. Your experience begins with a free ferry ride at 10 AM or 1:15 PM and continues once you arrive on the Island. A team of Rangers dressed in period clothing will guide you on this 1.5 mile, one and a half hour walking tour and hands on experience. This new program invites you to participate in an interactive living history program and see the island’s history through the eyes       
 of “guests” from the past. 
The program is entirely free but does require tickets, which you can get from National Park Service rangers at the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan. Groups of 10 or more should make reservations by contacting NPS at 212-825-3045.
So come out and experience the history of Governors Island as you never have before!                                                               


The Enchanting Views of Governors Island

The birds eye view of Governors Island, though different than it was in 1932, is still extraordinary (photo by A. Frieden)

In yesterday’s New York Times, there was an item in the Streetscapes column about a room at 70 Pine Street from which you have extraordinary views of Lower Manhattan and New York Harbor. The article remarks on the beauty of Governors Island as seen from the 66th floor of the building and mentions:

A reporter for The New York Evening Post visited in July 1932 and noted that “Governors Island, with its unfulfilled promised of harbor prettiness, seems to ride at anchor almost at one’s feet.”

The view of the Island today is definitely different than it was in 1932 (there was no Picnic Point then and the southern part of the Island would not yet have become home to the non-historic Coast Guard era buildings that are there today); but it seems that even 80 years ago people couldn’t get enough of the great view of the Island.

Not only is the view of the Island remarkable, but so are the views from it. The Island’s perimeter roadway affords incredible views that can be seen whether you are walking or biking. Visitors to the Island can see the Statue of Liberty, Jersey City, Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Waterfront and the Verrazzano Bridge, all in one trip around the 2.2 mile loop.

Visitors relax at Picnic Point and enjoy the views of Lower Manhattan and the Harbor
What is great about the Island is that the views are great on all sides!

These visitors took a break to check out the view of the Brooklyn waterfront from the Island's eastern side.

And while visitors today are experiencing these great views, visitors in the future will have even more opportunities to see New York Harbor and the surrounding land in ways they never had before. The Governors Island Park and Public Space Plan includes new hills from which visitors will be able to experience extraordinary, 360 degree panoramic vistas of the Harbor.

A rendering of the view from the Hills in the Governors Island Park and Public Space Plan

In less than two short months, you too can come over to the Island, get on a bike or take a walk and enjoy some of the great views.

Governors Island Polo Team

Photo of the Governors Island Polo Team, taken in 1940 (photo from

We found this great photo on ebay of the Governors Island polo team. The image was taken in 1940 and as you can see, the person who took it misspelled “Governors” as “Governers!”

Polo matches took place on Governors Island during the 20th century, mainly between World War I and World War II. The game returned to the Island once a season for the past few years with the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic. Last year, more than 10,000 members of the public came out to see Prince Harry and Nacho Figueras play on the South Island Fields, where polo was historically played.

Make No Small Plans?

1930's era proposal to vastly enlarge Governors Island (via

This map came to us from Claire Agre over at West 8 (the ace designers working on Governors Island’s park and public open space). They could at least have called it “New Governors Island.”

Know Any Good Ghost Stories?

View from Building 108 in the fog. Is the the shadowy figure in the mist an LMCC artist or an undead Confederate prisoner? WhooOOoo. . . .

Usually it hurts our feelings when people say Governors Island is creepy or compare us to Shutter Island or Lost, but we’re going with it this week because ’tis the season to be spooky. We thought about retelling Megan Taylor’s self-rocking hobby horse story or the one about the baby ghost that tried to push a former collegue down the the stairs in the Admiral’s House. But if you’re a Coastie, Brat and or National Park Service Ranger, we bet you have even better ones, so we’re encouraging you to drop us a line in the comments section below. We double dare you. . .

Island Archives: A Look at Governors Island’s Picturesque Past

Oldies But Goodies

As the 2010 season on Governors Island draws to a close, it is fun to look back at all the events and activities that this summer brought.  While on the Island, have you ever paused to wonder how it would have been to spend a day recreating on Governors Island 100 years ago? Despite being a hard working Army headquarters, recreation did occur.  Wonder no more, the following illustrates Governors Island’s lengthy history of fun!  

Governors Island garden parties then. 

1908 Garden Party. All images Courtesy of Library of Congress.

And now. 

Garden party at the Polo Classic

Military drills then: 

Military Drills on the Parade Grounds

And now. 

Drills during Army Heritage Weekend

Fanciful costumes then: 

Fun at the garden party, 1908.

And now. 

Fun with costumes and hats at Jazz Age Festival

Musical interludes then: 

Island concert.

And Now. 

Concert during Figment Festival

For all the exciting change on Governors Island, maybe some things remain the same…..


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