Governors Island is a lush getaway within the city, but its military history and empty homes help to give it a spooky feel.
Castle Williams, a circular fortification built between 1796 and 1811, was first used as a defensive system for the inner harbor with gun emplacements across three floors, with one tier used as a barracks. Later during the Civil War, it was used to house new Union recruits and to imprison Confederate men and deserters. It became a full-time prison in the early 20th century, until 1965 when the U.S. Army closed its post there. The U.S. Coast Guard took it over and used it as a community center for island residents, but that all ended in 1997 when it closed its base.
Colonels Row and Nolan Park once housed 3,500 residents before they were relocated in 1966. Even though the homes’ paint is peeling and it’s eerily quiet, it almost feels like the residents just left. It is strange to see such a suburban setting just a few hundred yards off the southern tip of Manhattan. It’s reminiscent of the movie “Pleasantville.”
There are not only homes, but just about everything a town would need to thrive — a YMCA, a couple of churches, a fort and even a theater — all of which you can find on Owasco Road.