Governors Island, 173 acres (70 hectares), in Upper New York Bay, S of Manhattan island, SE N.Y. Bought from the Native Americans by the Dutch in 1637, it was the site of an early New Netherlands settlement (1624). The island received its name in 1698 (officially 1784), when the British set it aside as the colonial governors' residence. Historic landmarks include Fort Jay (completed c.1800) and Castle Williams (1811), a Civil War military prison. Governors Island served as a U.S. military base until 1966, then becoming the east coast headquarters and training center of the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1988 it was the site of a meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The Coast Guard decommissioned its base in 1997. The island was sold to New York for a dollar in 2003; New York City assumed primary responsibility for the island in 2010. The historic fortifications there are now a national monument. (see National Parks and Monuments, table.)
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.