Governors Island and more of Brooklyn

We’ve never managed to get to Governors Island on previous visits as it’s closed in the winter months, so it was definitely on the list for this time. By the way, if you think, as I did, that Governors should have an apostrophe – it should, but it doesn’t!

I’ve seen the ferry terminal from the Staten Island ferry, so was delighted to see it close up.


The entry to the island isn’t quite as beautiful though.


A bit of potted history of the island. It was originally known as “Nut Island” as the nut trees were plentiful. Then the Dutch came and the island was purchased for private use and land speculation. It was confiscated by the Dutch Government. Then the British came, captured New Amsterdam, renaming it New York, and took the island. A tug of war ensued over the island and it switched ownership several times until the British finally got control and built a garrison there. It was renamed Governors Island and reserved for the “benefit and accommodation of His Majesty’s Governors. So it should be “Governors’ Island”!

Then the British withdrew to Canada and American forces fortified the island, before they were overpowered at the Battle of Brooklyn. The British occupied the island for the rest of the American Revolution.

After the British eventually withdrew, the government of the day fortified the harbour and built Fort Jay on the hill in the middle of the island.

Castle Williams is another fort, this one built facing the harbour.  Three forts were built in total and were able to repulse a British invasion in 1812.

Castle Williams then had several reincarnations. Now it is just a tourist attraction, but it’s been a place of incarceration and army headquarters.

We wandered about, checking out the various information boards and the architecture.


The island housed the Coast Guard and has played an important role in a number of historic events, including the relighting of the Statue of Liberty in 1986, and a UN sponsored conference to help restore democratic rule in Haiti.

These days it’s a wonderful spot to view the bottom end of Manhattan, aka the Financial District.


The Statue of Liberty looks a lot closer in real life than it does in this photograph. IMG_9277

We wandered around the island and took the ferry to Brooklyn instead of back to Manhattan. IMG_9299

We spent a happy couple of hours exploring Brooklyn, and taking a few classic photographs. IMG_9318


We had a late afternoon cocktail on Pilot, a wooden schooner moored on a pier in the Brooklyn Bridge Park. The schooner has had quite a history; contender for fastest sailboat in the world, pilot ship, ferry for soldiers in WWII and research vessel that’s circumnavigated the world twice.


A treasured photo of Archie and Mark.


The yacht is also an oyster bar and was pretty busy on a Saturday afternoon. The views are pretty special. IMG_9313

Although it was a long weekend, Archie had to work so Mark and I continued our explorations of Brooklyn. Houses such as this one provided interest and charm to our walks.


I had the Pratt Institute on my list as it has a sculpture park in its extensive grounds which is open to the public. It is really worth a visit.

Two rampant lions provided a nice backdrop for my Pattern Union Lulu tee.


And this sculpture is known as “Brickhead” which made me laugh. By James Tyler. IMG_9359

A rather splendid park seat allowed me to rest my feet for a minute. It’s The Whispering Bench by Cathy Billian.IMG_9353

Then the rain came and you can see Mark getting rather damp as he posed by this amazing sculpture which is an open book (the Book of Stone and Steel by Ivan Averbuch). We could not see how those slabs of stone didn’t collapse. The iron spikes do not touch the ground. IMG_9365

Did I mention rain? No more photos were taken as we decided to walk across the Manhattan Bridge and it chucked it down. I don’t think I’ve ever been so wet in my life. My raincoat was no match for the soaking and I was soaked through when we arrived at the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side for our Sweatshop Tour.

IMG_9371I took off my raincoat but got really cold, so Mark lent me his spray jacket, which although wet, wasn’t as wet as my raincoat.


The tour showed us a couple of three room apartments, one of which was also a sweatshop, which was fascinating. Thinking about the workers moving out of an apartment sweatshop and into a factory sweatshop was interesting, and of course many young women lost their lives in the Triangle Sweatshirt Factory fire, where they had been locked in to stop them taking breaks, so I’m not sure they were better off. The museum itself is pretty remarkable, but I was a bit disappointed with the tour.  It was crowded, and there were at least four pieces of misinformation imparted, which I found annoying. We had been going to hang around in Manhattan, but finished up going straight home to divest ourselves of the wet clothes.

A couple of days later we decided to head over to Bay Ridge which is in the southwest corner of Brooklyn, an easy subway ride from where we are staying.

We were quite surprised as we surfaced from the underground. The streets are really wide here, even in the residential areas. Once again, we felt we were in a small town. It was really quiet, with no high rise and little traffic. Such a delight.

Mark wanted to see the Gingerbread House, which was located in a pretty street with some quite magnificent houses.


The Gingerbread House was built in 1912 and is stunning. From a distance it looked as though it had a thatched roof, but the reality was much more disappointing – it’s some sort of patterned, bitumised fabric, which takes on the curves of the roof. Mark liked it, I didn’t.IMG_9482

It’s set in a park like garden and has a car turntable in the garage. IMG_9480

I love the chimney and would kill the see the fireplace it accommodates!IMG_9479

Bay Ridge is well known as the setting for Saturday Night Fever, and the Verrazzano Bridge is where the New York marathon starts. We had a lovely visit there, but did struggle to find a decent coffee!

We visited the local Home Depot back near us in Brooklyn, and I was intrigued to see all the Halloween decorations. I’ve never seen anything like it. This headless horseman was huge, quite cheap and animated by an air compressor. I couldn’t get it to work which is disappointing. I did wonder where you’d keep it for the rest of the year. Perhaps a permanent display to scare the kiddos?


We did manage to get some of the animated figures working, and here are a couple of photos which by no means show the extent of the display.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_5b0c

I do like the witches. IMG_9521

We don’t really “do” Halloween, although my kids did trick or treating (for the dressing up and free lollies/candy) and I’m sure decorations such as these would have made our house very popular. The other thing that struck me is how early all this is in the shops. It’s nearly two months until Halloween!





6 thoughts on “Governors Island and more of Brooklyn

  1. Here as well, stores are packed with Halloween stuff as early as September. Then Christmas things will appear right after in early November. As a result, people get bored with these decorations when comes the time to celebrate. It’s a shame. As for the Tenement Museum, I had heard bad reviews of this tour, just to let you know your disappointment is shared.

    1. Someone just sent me a photo of Christmas decorations in Costco! It’s getting ridiculous. Such a shame about the Tenement Museum. Archie didn’t enjoy a tour he did there either.

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