Thompson Island (Massachusetts)

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Thompson Island, Boston Harbor, 2008

Thompson Island is an island in the Boston Harbor, some 4 miles offshore from downtown Boston, Massachusetts. The island is managed by the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, a non-profit education organization. The island is open to visitors on summer Sundays; otherwise access is by arrangement only. It forms part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.[1]

The island has a size of 170 acres (0.69 km2), and the highest point is a drumlin that reaches a height of 78 feet above sea level. The rest of the island comprises low rolling hills and a salt marsh. The island has a mixed vegetation, including hardwood tree stands, remnant pear and apple orchards, ornamental trees and shrubs, open meadows, sumac groves, salt marsh grasses, and lawns, including a soccer field.[1]


In 1626, four years before the Puritans arrived, David Thompson established a trading post to trade with the Neponset Indians on the island that now bears his name. Thompson was a Scot who had been superintending the settlement of Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For the next two centuries, Thompson Island was leased to several families for farming.

Boys school, 1833-1975[edit]

Farm School, Thompson's Island, 1838

In 1833, the Boston Asylum for Indigent Boys was moved to the island, and in 1835 it merged with the Boston Farm School Society to become the Boston Farm and Trade School. In 1956 the name was changed again to Thompson Academy. Thompson Academy became a college preparatory boarding school and continued the tradition of shelter and guidance to boys from the Boston area and beyond. During some very turbulent times, the school was a model of successful community integration based on friendship and brotherhood for several hundred boys of all backgrounds each year during the late 60s and into the mid-70s. Students participated in private school sports leagues, involved themselves in meaningful community service projects in Boston, maintained educational ties with local colleges and universities and assisted with the upkeep of Thompson Island and their school. The boys and their teachers traveled back and forth between Kelly's Landing in South Boston and the Island via the boats "Pilgrim III" and its successor, "Pilgrim IV", regularly. In 1971 a fire destroyed the main school building. The school continued to operate for another four years, closing in 1975. Many Thompson graduates went on to study at prestigious colleges and universities in the USA and elsewhere.

Outward Bound, 1994-present[edit]

In the early 1990s, David Manzo of Community Providers of Adolescent Services, Inc. d/b/a COMPASS, John Verre of the McKinley Schools, Edward F. Kelley of RFK Children's Action Corp, and Peter Willauer of Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, created a comprehensive residential treatment program called Citybound, for adolescents with emotional and behavioral disabilities on Thompson Island.[2]

Thompson Island, 2006

The Willauer School, an expeditionary learning Outward Bound school operated from 1994 to 2006. The island is currently owned by the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center and operates Outward Bound programs that brings more than 5,000 students and 3,000 adults a year to the island. Thompson Island Outward Bound supports its mission through donations and profits from Thompson Island Conference Center (event business running corporate outings and social events) and Outward Bound Professional (adult teambuilding to create positive lasting change in the workplace).[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Thompson Island Factsheet". Boston Harbor Islands Partnership. Archived from the original on September 17, 2006. Retrieved October 6, 2006. 
  2. ^ Boston Globe, Don Aucoin, April 30, 1990

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°18′54″N 71°00′37″W / 42.315035°N 71.010217°W / 42.315035; -71.010217