Welcome to the audio-described version of Governors Island National Monument's official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the two-sided color brochure that Governors Island National Monument visitors receive. The brochure explores the history of the park, some of its highlights, and information for planning your visit. This audio version lasts about 20 minutes, which we have divided into 26 sections, as a way to improve the listening experience. Sections 1-11 cover the front of the brochure and include information regarding the park's long military history. Sections 12-26 cover the back of the brochure, which consists of a history of the island's evolution to the current state today. Other highlights include hours of operation, program information and contact information.
Governors Island National Monument, located in New York, is part of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. The 22-acre park is situated on an island in the middle of New York Harbor. This park was established in 2001 to preserve Fort Jay, Castle Williams, and the setting for over two hundred years of military history. Each year, thousands of visitors come to enjoy the unique experiences that can only be found at Governors Island. We invite you to explore the park's history and hear the stories of the lives of the people who called Governors Island home, as well as take in the breath-taking views of New York Harbor. For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit, visit Fort Jay and Castle Williams, talk to a ranger, or volunteer or go on one of our several formal programs offered daily. To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.
The photograph is of Castle Williams as seen from the waters of New York Harbor. It shows the island's shoreline, with Castle Williams in the foreground, on the edge of the island. Castle Williams looks like a massive, red-stone, and squat cylinder, with a flat roof. For windows, it has three lines of square openings, in groups of two. The openings start large at the bottom of the wall and get smaller with each line going up. Castle Williams is surrounded by trees, and another historic building lies to its left at the edge of the photo. In the background, rooftops of other buildings appear behind Castle Williams.
Castle Williams was the first fortification designed by an American military engineer. Completed in 1811, it was an integral part of the harbor's defenses and protected New York City during the War of 1812.
Daniel C. Krebs
Governors Island was one of the longest continuously active military posts in the United States. Since the late 1700s, the island has served as a major Army headquarters and later as the largest Coast Guard base in the nation. Its military role ended in 1996 after over 200 years of service.
The story began with the construction of Fort Jay and Castle Williams, which were part of the network of forts protecting New York Harbor. At the time Castle Williams was constructed – shortly before the War of 1812 – these imposing stone fortifications were state-of-the-art, but advances in weaponry rendered them obsolete by the 1830s. Their survival as two of the best-preserved coastal fortifications of that period was due to the continuous presence of the military and the important role the island played over two centuries.
The military legacy of Governors Island lies not only in the island’s physical structures but also in the stories of those who worked to promote the security and values of our nation here and abroad. One such individual was Secretary of War Elihu Root, who, while enlarging the island for Army support functions in 1901, recognized the historic significance of Fort Jay and Castle Williams and saved them from demolition. The island’s heritage also includes the accounts of soldiers who temporarily called the island home while mustered here before being deployed to faraway battlegrounds like Mexico in 1846 and the Normandy beachheads during World War II.
The history includes the experience of Confederate prisoners crowded into Castle Williams during the Civil War and their 20th-century counterparts incarcerated in the old fort, which had become part of the army prison system. Governors Island preserves the stories of personal achievements, like the first successful flight over water. In 1909, Wilbur Wright took off from the island’s dusty parade ground and flew around the waist of the Statue of Liberty. Over time, this early airstrip would serve as an airfield, polo ground, and warehouse depot.
Though retired from active duty, Governors Island has again been called to serve, this time for public enjoyment and discovery. In 2001, Governors Island National Monument was established to preserve Fort Jay, Castle Williams, and the setting for over two centuries of military life.
A color photograph of the front and side edifices of the commanding officer's house, taken on a clear winter day. The building is a two-story, brick structure. The side edifice has six windows visible: Three are large, tall windows, white trimmed with black shutters on the first level, and three are smaller, shorter windows on the second level, also with white trim and black shutters. The roof peaks above the top row of windows, with a chimney on either side of the roof's peak. The front of the house shows two floors of windows, also trimmed in white with black shutters. In front of these windows is a two-story porch with an overhanging porch roof, supported by six two-story-tall white columns. The house sits in a park-like setting surrounded by tall trees.
Built in 1843, the Commanding Officer’s residence was home to the island’s highest-ranking officer. In December 1988, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev held their final meeting here as heads of state.
CREDIT: Peter Aaron / ESTO.
Photo is of a painting of Colonel Jonathan Williams. It shows a heavy-set, white-haired clean-shaven, older man in a dark blue uniform, sitting alongside a table. The background is plain with a distant, clouded image of a fort. One of the man's arms rests on the table, on a piece of paper, alongside a blue military-style hat with gold trim. The man is wearing a dark blue jacket and dark blue trousers. The jacket comes to his waist, and there are five gold buttons visible in front. On his shoulders are gold-tasseled epaulets. His other arm hangs at his side with three gold buttons. Only the top portion of his legs are visible, covered in dark blue trousers.
Col. Jonathan Williams designed and constructed the coastal defenses in upper New York Harbor: Fort Jay and Castle Williams on Governors Island, Fort Wood on Bedloe’s Island (now the base for the Statue of Liberty), Fort Gibson on Ellis Island, and Castle Clinton at the Battery.
CREDIT: Philadelphia Museum of Art
The image is a color photo of the front gate of Fort Jay taken from the side, on a clear day. The foreground is green grass that leads up to a bridge, leading into the fort's entrance. The entrance is red stone with four square column-like features topped by a crown-like stone platform, on which stands an ornate red, stone statue. The gateway is surrounded on either side by the walls of the fort. The walls rise about two thirds the height of the gate structure. The walls are made of gray stone that rises about three-quarters of its height, with the top quarter made of brick. At one end of the bridge, there is the silhouette of a person, and in the center of the bridge is a light pole.
The Federal-style sandstone entrance gate is Fort Jay’s most prominent feature. Begun in 1794 and revamped by Colonel Williams, the fort serves as a reminder of our nation’s ongoing coastal defense efforts.
This color photo is an aerial view of Governors Island and part of New York Harbor. The island extends from the left foreground of the photo to about two-thirds across the image. In the background is a clear blue sky with Lower Manhattan in the center. To the right of Manhattan is the mouth of the east river and the Brooklyn waterfront, and to the left of Manhattan is the mouth of the Hudson River and Jersey City. On Governors Island, you can see the north end of the island with numerous historic buildings, grassy open spaces, and trees. Protruding out of the bottom of the island is a large "Y" shaped pier.
Governors Island with Lower Manhattan in the background. The national monument is part of a 90-acre national historic landmark district (northeastern half of the island) preserving nearly two centuries of military architectural heritage.
David Jay Zimmerman / Corbis.
Side two of the brochure is comprised of texts, one map, four photographs, and a historic drawing of New York Harbor. The historic drawing is at the top of the page, followed by text giving a brief history of Governors Island. Beneath that text is a black-and-white photo of early 20th century U.S. soldiers camped inside Fort Jay. Beneath that is a section entitled Planning your Visit that includes a simple map of New York Harbor. Beneath that section are three captioned photographs depicting scenes of modern programs and events at the Park. The text, associated maps, and photo descriptions are presented under their own sections. In addition to the map and photo descriptions, the text sections provide many descriptive details about what the areas look like, information about getting there, and park contact information.
The image is a black-and-white, early-19th-century drawing of New York Harbor done in an aerial perspective showing the locations of defensive fortifications on Governors Island and around New York Harbor. All the New York Harbor forts are labeled with gray labels. From left to right, Fort Gibson on Ellis Island, Fort Wood on Bedloe's or Liberty Island, Castle Clinton off the edge of Manhattan, Castle Williams on the edge of Governors Island, and Fort Jay in the center of Governors Island. Also visible in the drawing are the mouths of the Hudson and East rivers and numerous sailing vessels around the harbor.
CREDIT: New York Public Library.
New York Harbor’s abundant waters and lands first attracted American Indian peoples like the Lenape. Dutch settlers in the 1620s took advantage of the diverse ecosystem and established maritime enterprises. The British noted the harbor’s strategic potential and, by 1674, secured it for the Crown.
In 1776, Gen. George Washington’s colonial army made a valiant attempt to fend off the British siege of New York. Patriot cannons on Governors Island fired some of the first shots of the Battle of Brooklyn. The British prevailed and held New York for the duration of the Revolutionary War, but the experience steeled the resolve of the young nation to protect its harbors.
In one of its first initiatives that was truly national in scope, the United States began in the 1790s to fortify important harbors with a series of coastal defenses. Fort Jay and Castle Williams represent this early national effort. By the War of 1812, New York Harbor’s installations proved effective deterrents to the British Navy.
As the early forts became obsolete, most were converted to other uses. Governors Island remained in service as a U.S. Army administrative and training center. In 1878, the island, once considered an outpost, became the Army’s headquarters for the eastern United States, and after World War II, the first U.S. Army was headquartered here.
As New York City gained in international importance, so did the prestige of a posting to Governors Island. For army officers, it was recognition of accomplishment and a test of leadership that often led to more senior commands. Soldiers stationed here enjoyed social, political, and business connections in the city rivaled by few other posts.
On June 30, 1966, the Army left the island, and the U.S. Coast Guard established the headquarters for its Atlantic Area Command — its largest base in the nation. For 30 years, the Coast Guard and their families enjoyed the same sense of community and military prestige as their predecessors, a touch of small-town life in America’s largest city.
DESCRIPTION: A black-and-white photo of U.S. soldiers in a section of Fort Jay in 1902. There are a total of 11 soldiers in the image, all wearing dark uniforms with light-colored leggings and wide-brimmed light-colored hats. Five of the soldiers are sitting on the ground in the foreground of the photo, in front of three small, wedge-shaped tents. Two each in front of two tents and one, alone. In front of the tents, there are six rifles, leaning together in two stacks. To the side of the tents, there are two soldiers standing. One is standing at attention with a rifle on his shoulder. The other is standing, casually, legs apart, one hand at his side, the other on his hip. Behind the tents are four more soldiers, two sitting on a gun carriage and two more in front of it, all in relaxed poses. Further back behind the men is the inside brick wall of the fort, a large cannon, another empty gun carriage and pyramid-like stacks of large round cannonballs.
Troops drill at Fort Jay, 1902.
The map is of upper New York Bay, showing the locations of the various defensive forts built at the same time as the ones on Governors Island. They include forts on what is now Liberty and Ellis islands and Battery Park in Manhattan as well as the ones on Governors Island. The map also shows the route of the ferry to the island from Manhattan using a dotted line.
About the National Monument
Governors Island National Monument is a new national park site still being developed. Visitor access, tour schedules, ferry departure points, and ferry service are subject to change as the park evolves.
The national monument is currently open during the summer season. Dates, hours of operation, and event schedules are announced each spring.
The island is reached by ferry from the Battery Maritime Building at South and Whitehall streets in Lower Manhattan. There may be a fee for ferry transportation. Private boats are not permitted to dock at the island.
The 22-acre national monument includes the historic fortifications of Castle Williams and Fort Jay. In summer, there are opportunities to explore the fortifications and the national historic landmark district through park ranger programs or a self-guiding walking tour. Services and facilities are extremely limited. Bottled water is for sale, and vendors sell food in the summer season.
All visitors and their belongings are subject to search before boarding ferries. No weapons or alcohol are permitted on ferries or islands.
• Walkways and steps inside historic structures are narrow and uneven. Watch your step!
The image is a color photo of a park ranger providing information and or directions to a pair of visitors on Governors Island. The two visitors, one in a dark blue shirt carrying a large bag, the other, behind him in a white shirt, are holding a piece of paper in their hands. Next to them, is a park ranger in uniform. The park ranger's uniform is a gray shirt with a brown arrowhead-shaped patch on the upper arm, forest-green trousers and a wide-brimmed, rounded hat with a dark brown band. The ranger is pointing at something on the paper that the visitors are holding.
National park rangers help visitors explore Governors Island and its history.
Daniel C. Krebs
The image is a color photo of a modern dance performance taking place in the moat of Fort Jay. In the photo there are five performers wearing matching black clothing, running toward or jumping up to the wall of Fort Jay. Three performers are captured mid-jump with hands on the wall. Two others are shown running toward the wall. The walls of Fort Jay are gray, granite blocks. The ground in the moat is green and grassy.
Governors Island programs occasionally include art exhibitions and performances, which can provide new perspectives on the historic forts.
Nicole Bengiveno / The New York Times.
The image is a color photograph of about 25 volunteers lined up on a grassy field, dressed as Civil War soldiers. The volunteers in the picture are wearing U.S. Army uniforms of the American Civil War era. Their trousers are sky blue, and their hats and jackets are dark blue. They are standing in two rows of about 12 each. Each man is holding a brown rifle against his body. There is one volunteer in the same uniform as the others, standing in front, facing the formation. In the background are green leafy trees.
Special living history events bring the island's military heritage alive.
Daniel C. Krebs.
Parts of the National Monument along with all its exhibits are ADA compliant.
There are currently no audio descriptions, besides this one, available. Please ask a ranger for further information.
Governors Island National Monument is one of over 400 parks in the National Parks System. To learn more about national parks and National Park Service programs in America’s communities, visit www.nps.gov.
Governors Island National Monument
10 South Street
New York, NY 10004-1900