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Governors Island, fort

The island the Native Americans called “Pagganck” (“nut trees”) is one of the locations where colonists under the jurisdiction of the Dutch West India Company first settled in 1623/1624. While little first-hand information is available about the activities of the colonists, the instructions for Willem Verhulst, drawn up in Amsterdam in January 1625, refer to a “fort on Noten Island.” This makes it likely that the settlers erected a defensive structure, probably a blockhouse, in order to defend themselves after the ocean-going ships had departed for Europe. A possible location for a small fort was near the wind-powered sawmill that is depicted on the 1639 Manatus map (fig. 2) in the northwestern corner of the island. Presumably this fort fell out of use when the colonists moved to Manhattan soon afterwards. Considering the subsequent use of Governors Island, especially in the nineteenth century, it was considered unlikely that traces could be found. But in the late twentieth century, subsurface testing in the northeastern corner of the Governors Island National Historic Landmark district identified structural remains of what could be either the sawmill or a defensive structure. Yet this location does not agree with the 1639 Manatus map. An alternative location for the original Dutch fortification is the center of the original island, as suggested by Oscar Hefting and Hans van Westing after visual inspection in 2012. Thus the remains of the first Dutch fort could be buried under Fort Jay, which dates from the late eighteenth century. Further research, using eighteenth-century documentation and for instance including a geophysical survey of the open area around Fort Jay, is required.

build start


build end




historical name

Governors Island, fort

Nooten Eylandt, fort

Nutten Island, fort



location Gouverneurseiland


  • Jacobs, J., Dutch Colonial Fortifications in North America 1614-1676 (Amsterdam, 2015), 6
  • Warren-Findley, Jannelle, Governors Island, National Monument, New York, New York: Historic Resource Study (National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 2006)