Constitution Island

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Constitution Island
Constitution Island, NY viewed from the west Jan 09.JPG
Constitution Island, NY as seen looking east from Merritt Road, on West Point
Constitution Island is located in New York
Constitution Island
Location within New York
Nearest city Cold Spring, New York
Coordinates 41°24′20″N 73°57′15″W / 41.40556°N 73.95417°W / 41.40556; -73.95417Coordinates: 41°24′20″N 73°57′15″W / 41.40556°N 73.95417°W / 41.40556; -73.95417
Historical marker across the river at West Point

Constitution Island is located in the Hudson River, just south of Cold Spring, Putnam County, New York. The island was given to the United States of America in 1909, and since then has been administered by the United States Military Academy.


Known as Martelaer's Rock in colonial times, it was renamed Constitution Island in 1775. Continental forces fortified the island with artillery batteries and redoubts during the War of American Independence. The island is perhaps best known as the eastern anchor-point for the Great Chain, a massive iron structure that stretched across the narrow bend in the Hudson between the island and the mainland at West Point. The chain was intended to prevent British naval vessels from navigating freely along the Hudson. It remained in place (except during months when ice blocked the river) from 1778 to 1782. After the war, Constitution Island returned to civilian use.[1]:17-18,25-27

Tadeusz Kościuszko along with Thomas Machin designed a capstan for reeling in the chain. Kosciuszko also added the Lanthorn Battery at Gee's Point and the Knox Battery to cover the South Dock. The original iron chain, with one and a half inch thick links, was replaced in 1778 with links two and a quarter inches thick, which were two feet long and weighed 140 pounds. Made by Peter Townsend's Stirling Iron Works in Warwick, New York, the 1500 foot long chain weighed 186 tons. Kept afloat on huge logs, forty men removed the chain in winter.[clarification needed][2]:55,58

Warner House[edit]

The Warner House is a National Historic Landmark located on Constitution Island, administered by the United States Military Academy. The Warner family owned the island and lived in the house from 1838 to 1915. Sisters Susan Bogert Warner and Anna Bartlett Warner were popular, prolific novelists whose works sold millions of copies in the United States, England and elsewhere. The Warner sisters are recognized as among the most significant American women writers of the nineteenth century. Upon Susan's death, Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage persuaded the federal government to accept the 280 acre island as an addition to West Point, with the condition the island could never be used for another purpose, and that Anna remain there until her death. Both sisters are buried at West Point Cemetery.[1]:78-79,163-164

The Warner House and surrounding gardens are normally open to the public during the operational season. The Constitution Island Association, a not-for-profit organization created by the cadets, traditionally provided historic and cultural tours for visitors to the island and maintained the extensive gardens surrounding the Warner House. The Warner House is currently closed to visitors because the structure has become unstable, although the garden and grounds are open for visiting. The Military Academy has made improvements to the site including upgrades to the roadways, drainage, support facilities and trails. The West Point Association of Graduates has begun a capital campaign to raise funds to restore the historic structure and allow visitors inside the historic structure.

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dunwell, F.F., 1991, The Hudson River highlands, New York: Columbia University Press, ISBN 0231070438
  2. ^ Storozynski, A., 2009, The Peasant Prince, New York: St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9780312388027

External links[edit]