Hart Island Natural Ecology
Hart Island is a saltwater, non-barrier island whose 130 acres include areas of woodland, scrub, vineland and closed forest. A saltmarsh occurs on its west side. Visitors arriving by boat at either the coal dock or the ferry dock will notice a small lagoon that is part of an expanding wetland area being... Read more...
In 2006, the Department of Correction (DOC) erected a wooden shelter near the ferry dock to accommodate the Interfaith Friends of Potter’s Field, a prayer group organized by the nonprofit Picture the Homeless. DOC agreed that the group could assemble at the gazebo on a bi-monthly basis. However, the gr... Read more...
(c. early 20th century)
Phoenix House was the last city run institution to operate as a large residential facility on Hart Island using this administration building from 1967 to 1976. Under state laws passed in 1966, judges had authority to sentence people to three years of treatment for addiction to drugs. Announcing the program... Read more...
At one time Hart Island was known as Spectacle Island referring to a land bridge connection north and south areas of the landscape. In the 1880s, the area at the center of Hart Island was filled with New York City garbage. This area was unsuitable for burials because New York State Law does not permit... Read more...
During the Civil War, ships transporting Union and Confederate troops anchored in the Long Island Sound east of Hart Island. A carriage house built in 1910 likely replaced an earlier structure at this location close to the beach, where supplies came ashore and were loaded onto wagons before docks were buil... Read more...
Hart Island Soldiers Cemetery
Although active duty Civil War soldiers were eligible for burial in National Cemeteries, veterans who died following their discharge did not receive military burials until 1916 when Congress appropriated funding. Unclaimed veterans were buried separately by the city in a separate area known as Soldier’s Plot... Read more...
Civil War Parade Ground
Prior to being used for city burials, this area once served as a parade ground for the 31st regiment of the United States Colored Troops, which had consolidated with the 30th Connecticut Colored Volunteers and a number of black Canadians and other foreign-born people of African descent who also served in... Read more...
In 1907, the City Mission Society of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and member Mrs. William Greer raised $600 to commission and erect a granite cross bearing the inscription “He Calleth His Own By Name” on the base. Manufactured by the Harrison Granite Company, the base is four feet by four feet and... Read more...
Nike Missile Battery Launch Administration, Mess Hall and Storage Facility
These are the only remaining above ground structures from the Nike NY-15 Launch Site, which is emblematic of the development of military protection for the former New York Defense Area from enemy attack during the Cold War period. The Hart Island site is also significant as one of the first sites built in... Read more...
Nike Missile NY-15 Launch Area Underground Storage Magazine
During the late 1950s, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers was tasked with construction of the nation’s first anti-aircraft missile defense, the Army’s Nike System. The weapon itself, the Nike Ajax, was the first surface-to-air guided missile placed into service in the United States when it became operational... Read more...
During World War II, Hart Island was used as a disciplinary camp for Navy, Coast Guard and Marine personnel. Three German prisoners of war captured from a U-boat that surfaced in the Long Island Sound were imprisoned on Hart Island. After the war, ten acres at the northern end of the island were taken over... Read more...
Civil War Morgue
The foundation of a building at this location matches photographs that identify the building as a civil war morgue. It is unknown whether this morgue was used to identify the remains of Civil War Veterans disinterred from Soldiers Cemetery (see location 6) or it was used to process Union and Confederate... Read more...
Mercury School Ship Memorial
When the City purchased Hart Island in 1868, part of the property was to be used for a workhouse and industrial school for delinquent boys from the House of Refuge on Randall’s Island. Additionally, a commercial ship, the Mercury, was to be converted to a naval vessel and used as a nautical school or “sc... Read more...
The first municipal burial on Hart Island took place on April 20, 1869, for a 24 year old housekeeper named Louisa Van Slyke who was born at sea and died of tuberculosis at the Charity Hospital on Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island). Ten days following her death on April 10, Louisa’s coffin was lo... Read more...
Laundry, Butcher, Dynamo Buildings and Smoke Stack
Following a review in 1904, the City Council passed legislation to build a new reformatory for “youthful offenders,” young men ages 16-30. This measure involved removing older male prisoners from the Hill and erecting new buildings in the Hollow that were unlike conventional prison structures. A group of buil... Read more...
When the Department of Charities and Correction was formed in 1860, it greatly expanded the city’s healthcare and reform-oriented penal institutions. The Pavilion on Hart Island was among the first buildings constructed in an area named “The Hollow,” on the south end of Hart Island. The building was firs... Read more...
The burials on Hart Island were performed by prison inmates under prison supervision and attended by Protestant, Catholic and Hebrew clergy. Catholics were interred in separate plots up until the 1960s. Religious observance was encouraged by the city as a way to maintain order. Each denomination had sep... Read more...
Prison Record Repository & Reformatory
(c. early 20th century)
Early in the 20th century, these red-brick buildings replaced the Civil War-era barracks where workhouse inmates resided. The buildings were designed without bars, offering an alternative approach to that of Blackwell’s Penitentiary on Roosevelt Island. Young men convicted of misdemeanors who resided on H... Read more...
Jewish residents on Hart Island were able to attend services in a small chapel with a rabbi assigned to Hart Island. Catholic, Episcopal and Hebrew clergy resided on or visited Hart Island regularly. They often worked together to say prayers at city burials that include people of all faiths. The presence o... Read more...
Hart Island Hospital
The first burial on Hart Island was for Louisa Van Slyke who died at age 24 from tuberculosis. In the 20th century, this building housed tubercular and chronically-ill patients. Starting in 1950, it was used to house homeless men suffering from alcohol addiction. The Committee on Alcoholism of the City’... Read more...
Site of Negro Coney Island & AIDS burials
(1925 and 1983-86, respectively)
In the early 20th Century, New York City owned all but four acres of Hart Island. Those four acres on the south end of the island belonged to John Hunter, a member of the same family that sold the larger portions of the island to the City in 1868. Hunter offered to sell the remaining four acres to the... Read more...