The prison with the best view ever

In Castle Williams, which was built in the early 19th century to protect New York Harbour, then used as a prison during the Civil War, following which the US Army improved the facilities by adding insulation, heating, running water, and, eventually, electricity, and used it as a US Army Prison. In 1915, it was made a branch of the Fort Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks, of which the prison facility at Alcatraz in San Francisco was also a branch.

When they weren’t admiring the view to Manhattan and New York Harbour, inmates were listening to music from a Victrola (record player) they had purchased with money they had made taking in laundry, or took typing and steno lessons, offered through the Y.M.C.A., likely taught by female volunteers. And, while in Alcatraz, the prisoners had the backbreaking task of building their own cells out of heavy stones, ”hard labour” at Governors Island meant mowing the lawns. There were those that tried to escape, of course, but it was not an uncommon to see soldiers who had gone AWOL surrender themselves outside of the Battery Maritime Building, hoping to be imprisoned at Castle Williams.

Anyway, “Castle Bill”, as it was lovingly called by its residents, remained a branch of the US Army Disciplinary Barracks until Governors Island’s closure as an Army base in 1966. The Coast Guard did not maintain a prison in Castle Williams but readapted it for their own needs by using it as a community center featuring arts and crafts classrooms, a ballet studio, meeting rooms for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, a daycare room, and a teen club.

And when, in 1996 all Military and Coast Guard operations seized, the enlisted men, women and their families that lived on the island year-round departed, living behind them a small town. Since then, the facilities – the island itself, are slowly being converted into a public park.

It still has the best views to Manhattan and New York Harbour.

Info source: &

Governors Island

July 7th, 2019

A Blessed Ghost

Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,
That slid into my soul.

The silly buckets on the deck,
That had so long remained,
I dreamt that they were filled with dew;
And when I awoke, it rained.

My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.

I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
I was so light—almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed ghost.

Excerpt from The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner,

a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Listen to the reading by Deborah Warner

September 16th, 2018 – Aboard the Schooner Pioneer


Hoist your Sail when the Wind is Fair

All aboard for a two-hour sunset sail on New York Harbor – on 1885 Schooner Pioneer!

About Schooner Pioneer

In the days before paved roads, small coastal schooners such as Pioneer were the delivery trucks of their era, carrying various cargoes between coastal communities: lumber and stone from the islands of Maine, brick on the Hudson River, and oyster shell on the Chesapeake Bay. Almost all American cargo sloops and schooners were wood, but because she was built in what was then this country’s center of iron shipbuilding, Pioneer had wrought-iron hull. She was the first of only two cargo sloops built of iron in this country, and is the only iron-hulled American merchant sailing vessel still in existence.

By 1930, when new owners moved her from the Delaware River to Massachusetts, she had been fitted with an engine, and was no longer using sails. In 1966 she was substantially rebuilt and turned into a sailing vessel once again. Today she plies the waters of NY Harbor carrying adults and children instead of cargo in her current role as a piece of “living history.”

Today Pioneer is an award winning sail training vessel teaching volunteers of all kinds, traditional maritime skills, and the art of tall ship sailing. [source: South Street Sea Seaport Museum]

Watching Lady Liberty light up, the sky catching fire as the golden hour gave way to the blue and the blue turned to midnight; those two hours on the deck of an 1885 schooner were the most tranquil and peaceful we’d experienced in the City thus far.

New York City Harbor

September 16th, 2018