Photo Album Page 2
The Go-Home-to-Hart tour came about as a result of Judith Colgan seeing on the web Michael Harling's virtual tour of Hart, based on his taking the New York Correction History Society (NYCHS) tour June 15.

Judy, an RN who lives in Virgina and works for the National Institues of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, contacted Harling via e-mail. She expressed the hope that someday she might have an opportunity take such a tour herself to see once again the island where she spent so many happy childhood vacations. Harling, an active NYCHS member and the author of the Origins of the New York State Bureau of Identification, extended excerpts of which are presented on this web site, referred her to the webmaster/general secretary.

Judith Colgan looks at one of the still-standing vacant houses on Hart. It was the residence of the island's doctor and later the home of a warden, Edward Dros.

The referral prompted action on a suggestion made some weeks earlier by Virginia Gallagher, a NYCHS member as well as founder/president of the City Island Historical Society. She had participated as one of the guides in both the June 15 and April 27 Hart Island history tours. As a special accommodation to those taking the tours, she opened the museum that would have been normally closed at those times on those days. The City Island Museum is situated on Fordham St., a short distance from tbe ferry slip at the end of the same street.

Gallagher, who also is a member of the New York City Tax Commission as well as officer of various civic and charitable institutions and organizations, had suggested that City Island attorney Mary McDonnell would be an interesting person for NYCHS to interview because she had lived on Hart as a child.

Rather than simply an interview, a counter-suggestion was offered. Why not invite Mary McDonnell to join Judy Colgran in a NYCHS-arranged Going-Home-to-Hart tour? Commissioner Gallagher acted on that offer and Mary accepted the invitation. Word got around City Island and soon an invitation was also extended to Patricia Murphy as another former Hart resident. She too accepted. More might have been interested in a return visit had there been additional time to spread the word, but Judy's window of opportunity to make a trip up from Virginia during her vacation was running out. Also the regular ferry's backup boat has considerably less passenger capacity.

The group views the once-busy industrial complex on the island, including power plant, laundry, and bakery.

As the returnees strolled along the tree-lined east-west street traversing the narrow island and connecting to the shore roads running north and south:

  • Mary McDonnell remembered her mother making use of the island greenhouse, most of whose windows are now broken or missing. The ruin was sandwiched between the Inmate Visit House and the firearms training building.

  • Patricia Murphy recalled learning to drive on the island "and nearly running down some of the young soldiers assigned to the Nike base at the north end."

  • Judith Colgan spoke of her grandfather taking her to see his office in the large red brick administration building across from the greenhouse. Mary contributed, "Yes, that office had a big standing safe."

In front of former Warden Edward Dros' home, the group boarded an inmate bus, complete with window and interior security grills and partitions. Because the regular ferry was out of service, the inmate bus was the only motor transport available on the island.

With CO Cassara as driver, they rode the bus a short distance to the island's industrial complex, and stopped just south of the old dynamo (power) plant.

Hart firefighters used to drape wet hoses across a series of raised bars to dry. Back then no trees grew amid the hose-drying racks. Virginia Gallagher and CO Cassara stand among the rusting racks. One rack can be seen immediately behind them.

  • Mary McDonnell remembered "the division inmates who worked in the dynamo room were allowed afterwards to go fishing right behind the plant." They could and would cook and eat what they caught. She added that in those days the inmate population was divided into different companies called divisions, each with a special task, job or role.

  • Patricia Murphy recalled how members of the Hart firefighting unit attended to their equipment at that location, regularly stretching their wet hoses across a series of raised bars or racks to dry.

  • Virginia Gallagher noted that the wall behind the power plant was constructed in the 1950s after a severe storm caused extensive damage on the island and the resulting erosion threatened the above-ground steam and power connections.

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