Thompson Island (Massachusetts)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Thompson Island, Boston Harbor, 2008

Thompson Island is an island in the Boston Harbor, some 2 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 Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day; otherwise access is by arrangement only. Thompson Island is one of the largest, most accessible and ecologically diverse islands in 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, and salt marsh grasses. The island has open meadows, forests, marine wetlands, sumac groves, and a variety of other geological features as well. Amenities include a formal school campus complete with classrooms, dormitories, dining hall, auditoriums, gymnasium, lab space, outdoor challenge courses, and climbing towers.[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 Asylum and Farm School for Indigent Boys. Many of the students who went to school on the island lost one or both parents, or had parents who were unable to care for them.[2] In order for a student to be enrolled in the school, the parents or guardians had to sign a form giving the school guardianship of the boys until they were 21 years old.[3] While on the island, parents were only able to see their child once a month during visit days and for two weeks during the summer when the boys were allowed to return home.[4] Many "distraught mothers" [4] changed their minds about having their boys at the school and wanted to have them withdrawn. There are several documented cases where the school returned guardianship to the parents, who were then able to have their child come back home.[5] Throughout these years, there were two fatal boating accidents which resulted in the death of several students and faculty. The first was in 1842, where 29 individuals died. The second was in 1892, where 9 individuals died [6] In 1955 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 Island 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.[7]

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 team-building to create positive lasting change in the workplace).[1]


Using the wilderness as a classroom, the nationally recognized Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center guides students through a journey of self-discovery. In partnership with Boston Public Schools and the National Park Service, Thompson Island Outward Bound serves early adolescents from all economic and social communities of greater metropolitan Boston. Through adventurous and challenging hands-on programs and learning experiences, Thompson Island Outward Bound seeks to inspire character development, leadership, teamwork, compassion, academic achievement, community service, and environmental responsibility in students of all ages.


Connections is Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center’s cornerstone education program that integrates Massachusetts curriculum frameworks into hands-on field experiences for thousands of Boston urban youth each year in order to make learning fun, memorable, and impactful. Connections programs range from one to three day overnights during the school year, five week daily sessions in the summer and year round programs. In partnership with Boston Public Schools, Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center’s Connections program aims to close the achievement gap that exists among students of diverse backgrounds. Using the unique setting of Thompson Island and the Boston Harbor Islands National Park as an outdoor classroom, students explore, discover, navigate, research, hike, and climb as they work together to overcome challenges, solve problems, and inspire each other on a path towards excellence.

Sailing on Massachusetts Bay

Summer Expeditions[edit]

Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center’s Summer Expeditions deliver exhilarating 7 to 14 day wilderness courses for youth ages 12–17. Set in the Boston Harbor Islands National Park, these adventure-based sailing, sea kayaking, and island expeditions employ physical and emotional challenges to build character, develop leadership, and instill confidence. Students gain new friendships and a powerful sense of accomplishment, as they live outdoors, explore the natural world, climb high ropes towers, investigate marine ecology, learn camp craft, practice environmental stewardship, work with National Park Rangers, and participate in team-based service projects.

Outdoor Challenge Course


Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center’s Discovery programs use adventure, challenge, and exploration in the natural world to help young people realize their potential as individuals, leaders, and team members. These customized courses can range in length from a single-day course to a five-day overnight expedition. Created specifically for schools and community-based organizations, Discovery expeditions serve young people of all physical levels, backgrounds, and experiences from 5th grade through undergraduate college.

Green Ambassadors[edit]

Through a partnership with the National Park Service, Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center provides Boston youth ages 15–18 with professional experience in the green job sector. The Green Ambassadors program is designed to develop life skills, workforce readiness, and environmental stewardship, while providing career training in future green pathways. This seven-week summer employment position is part of a three-year curriculum, which includes environmental science, natural resource management, and outdoor education. Graduates of the program are supported in their pursuit of a college degree in environmental science or a career preparatory program in the technical sector.


Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center’s Professional programs deliver customized adult programs designed to yield high-performance teams, cultivate a positive, supportive and empowering culture, and form greater trusting relationships among colleagues. Programs are run on Thompson Island or any location the client chooses. Courses operate year-round.

Thompson Island's Waterfront Landing

Thompson Island Conference Center and Signature Events[edit]

Corporate and family outings, conferences, parties, and weddings enjoy Thompson Island’s unique venues and outstanding views of the Boston skyline. Overnight accommodations and catering is available for all events. The proceeds support Thompson Island Outward Bound’s youth programs.

Community Support[edit]

Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center is committed to making a difference for Boston’s most vulnerable and under served young people. Thompson Island Outward Bound’s programs serve thousands of inner city youth each year and are made possible through a generous and loyal network of individual, foundation, and corporate donors. In addition, Thompson Island Outward Bound’s Scholarship Fund offers hundreds of individual and group scholarships each year to young people who otherwise would not be able to participate.


  1. ^ a b c "Thompson Island Factsheet". Boston Harbor Islands Partnership. Archived from the original on September 17, 2006. Retrieved October 6, 2006. 
  2. ^ "Saved by Boston Boat." (1894, May 23). Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922). pp. 12.
  3. ^ Thompson Island: Collection, 1814-1990, University Archives & Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Boston
  4. ^ a b Mock, Elizabeth(1991)Thompson Island: Learning By Doing
  5. ^ Thompson Island: Collection, 1814-1990, University Archives & Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Boston
  6. ^ Thompson’s Island Collection Records, 1814-1990 (Bulk, 1814-1977). SC-0040. Descriptions of UMass Boston’s Collection (Finding Aids). Open Archives: Digital Collections at the University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA. 17 June 2015
  7. ^ 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