Path of History
SCA and YCC at Governors Island National Monument
It can be easy to overlook the bricks of history when they are directly underfoot, pressed neatly together into a long ribbon.
Summertime brings plenty of visitors to Governors Island National Monument in New York Harbor. Positioned at the tip of Lower Manhattan, the island has served as one of the longest continually-operated military installations in the country. Its strategic value was first recognized in 1755, and it was occupied as a defensive position nearly continuously until the U.S. Coast Guard relinquished control in 1996.
The site still contains Fort Jay and Castle Williams, two forts representing aspects of late 18th- and early 19th-century American harbor defense systems. Most visitors to the site explore its history by following the heavily-traveled walkway that runs through the largely pedestrian park.
This July, twelve Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) members and two Student Conservation Association (SCA) crew chiefs learned about historic masonry and Governor’s Island history as they leveled and reset bricks in the historic sidewalk. The critical repairs make the walkway safer for the tens of thousands of people who use it every week, while also helping to preserve a critical thread of the park’s cultural fabric.
For two days, the crew carefully leveled the bricks to be sure that the path’s surface would be flat. To do this, they removed bricks from damaged areas, dug out the underlying dirt, and layered fresh gravel and sand to create a solid base. They placed bricks into the stable bed, made sure the surface was level, and then swept sand into the spaces to lock the masonry in place.
The group also had a chance to tour Castle Williams, rewarded for their hard work with a rooftop view, rejuvenating harbor breeze, and wider perspective of how their repairs to the walkway fit into the historic landscape.
The crew spends the summer traveling around New York City to participate in natural and cultural resource protection projects at the sites that make up the National Parks of New York Harbor. It is comprised of high-school aged youth from all five boroughs and beyond. The youth workers’ next destination is Gateway National Recreation Area, where they will construct a new hiking trail in Jamaica Bay.
The YCC program operates in partnership with the SCA, which provides experienced crew chiefs to guide and supervise the youth teams in their activities.
- You can find more images of this project, as well as other current events happening at Governors Island National Monument, on the park’s Facebook page.
- Interested in the specific features and history of this cultural landscape? Read the Cultural Landscape Inventory park report for Governors Island. [If you follow the link, you can download the full report under the “Holdings” tab.]