Davids' Island is a 78-acre (320,000 m2) island off the coast of New Rochelle, New York, in Long Island Sound. Currently uninhabited, in the past it was the site of Fort Slocum. Plans are to preserve the island as public parkland under the Westchester County Parks system. The island is home to the endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, and rare birds such as osprey and least terns. Davids' Island also supports valuable wetlands, rare rocky intertidal areas, and sandy beaches. The waters surrounding the Island are home to Winter Flounder, Atlantic Herring, and Atlantic Silversides.
History of the name
The island has been known by many names. It was first called "Bouteillier's Island" from Jean Bouteillier, its original owner, and one of the leading promoters of the first settlement in New Rochelle. He sold it to Jacob Leisler and Guillaume LeConte, who later sold it to Anthony Lispenard. In 1732, Lispenard sold it to Joseph Rodman, and for a long period of time it was known as Rodman's Island. The grandson of Joseph Rodman, who became its owner in 1759, offered it for sale in 1775. At one time after the Revolution, it was called "Wyer's Island", from John R. Myer, proprietor of Davenport Neck during the war period. By 1790, it had become the property of Lawrence Hewitt, but the old name of "Rodman's Island" was retained. Later it was called "Hewitt's Island" and also "Allen's Island". The Davenport family who had purchased Davenport Neck finally acquired the island too, in 1823, owning it for a long period of time. During this time it was also called "Morse's Island", from Robert Morse who occupied it as a tenant. Eventually it was sold to Thaddeus Davids, the manufacturer of ink who was a longtime resident of New Rochelle, and from whom it acquired the name by which it has been known for a century, "Davids' Island".
Uses of the island
The island was rented by the U.S. Government in April, 1862, and was used for hospital purposes. Wooden structures were immediately erected which housed thousands of wounded prisoners from the battlefields of the Civil War. A ferry connection was established from Neptune Island, under the control of Simeon Leland. At the end of the war, Congress authorized its purchase for military purposes and it was conveyed to the United States in 1867. From its purchase, the government had operated its own ferry boats to and from a dock on Neptune Island. It was used until 1878 as a sub-depot for the recruiting service, and, in that year, it became the general recruiting depot. It was later converted to a coastal artillery defense post and was given the name Fort Slocum after Major General Henry W. Slocum, U.S. Volunteers. In 1921, the battery included 4 12-inch (300 mm) mortars, 4 3-inch (76 mm) pedestal guns, and 2 3-inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns. During World War I the island became one of the busiest recruiting stations in the country, processing 100,000 soldiers per year. According to The Cadence Page, the famous "Sound off, one, two" military cadence was invented at Fort Slocum in 1944. From 1946 to 1949, Fort Slocum housed Headquarters First Air Force. It was redesignated "Slocum Air Force Base" in June 1949; this only lasted for a year before being turned back into an Army post in June 1950.From 1951 to 1962, Fort Slocum (Davids Island) was the home of the U.S. Army Chaplain School and the US Army Information School.
From 1955 to 1960, Fort Slocum housed a Nike Ajax air-defense battery. The missiles were stored in underground silos on Hart Island and the radar and control base was on Davids Island. In July 1960, after only five years of operation, Nike Battery NY-15 was closed. From then until it was deactivated, Fort Slocum was the site of the information school, where Army soldiers and Air Force airmen were trained in journalism, public affairs, and photography. In 1965, the information school was moved to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana and Fort Slocum was deactivated.
At one point the island was owned by Con Edison, which had plans to build a nuclear power plant on it. After those plans fell through, in the late 1960s, it was used as a children's summer camp, named "July O Rama," for inner-city children during summers. The island was sold to the city of New Rochelle in 1967.
During the summer of 2008, the city of New Rochelle had demolished every remaining structure on the island, with plans to turn it into a park.
- Citizens Campaign for the Environment
- Northeast Coastal Areas Study - The Narrows Complex
- Army Appropriation Bill, 1921: Hearings Before Subcommittee No. 1 of the Committee on Military Affairs, House of Representatives, Sixty-sixth Congress, U.S. Government, page.322
- Coastal Defense Study Group
- Joe McCusker's Air Force Base List
- Westchester County property records
- History of Westchester County, Scharf, Vol I., pp. 450-453
- Citizens Campaign for the Environment page about Davids Island
- Saving Davids Island: An Activist History
- Michael Cavanaugh's Fort Slocum page
- Historic Pelham blog entry, including entire text of a September 11, 1862 New York Times article about the soldiers hospital on Davids Island
Template:New Rochelle, New York