When the US government transferred ownership of Governor’s Island to New York City and state and the National Park Service (NPS) last year, history buffs were thrilled: This 200-year-old military post off the southern tip of Manhattan had long been closed to the general public. Now it’s set to become the city’s newest national park, slated to open in 2006.
But NPS is offering a peck of the island through guided tours. Last summer’s inaugural tours quickly filled up and were extended through the fall to accommodate more than 4,000 visitors. Among the first to sign up were former Army and Coast Guard “brats” eager to revisit the place they called home from 1935 to 1996.
Although the park is still in the planning stages, NPS hopes to begin collecting stories during this season’s tours. Governor’s Island “alumni” have a head start: Tom Clinard, who was born on the island in 1936, has scrapbooked fellow Army brats’ memories, including Holmes’ travelogue, on his Web site, <www.govislandarmybrat. com>. Many Coast Guard brats, whose tenure on Governor’s Island began in 1966 after the US First Army Headquarters departed, still reunite yearly. About 3,000 members of the Coast Guard lived with their families on the island when it closed.
NPS tours, which will resume this summer, also visit the island’s historic district and Castle Williams — a massive, 1811 circular fort where the US Army defended New York during the War of 1812 and later imprisoned Confederate soldiers. For more information on tours, go to <www.governorsislandnationalmonument.org> or <www.nps.gov/gois>.