Greenpoint, October, 2015

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Mystery of Married Island

That's the glorious Hell Gate Bridge in a photo from 1937 by Berenice Abbott. The name Hell Gate refers to the narrow and dangerous tidal strait above which it crosses. The Hell Gate, or "Hellegat," in Dutch is still with us in name and place. And so is Ditmars Boulevard, named for Ditmarsen in Lower Saxony, whence Jan Jansen van Ditmarsen came to the New World around 1640. Around the same time, a certain Hendrick Harmensen was also enaged in cultivation of a "bouwery," or farm, in the area. When he died, his widow married Juraiaen Fradell, a native of Moravia. Fradell obtained a deed for a "piece of land lying on Long Island east of Hellegat" (in present day Maspeth).

From Brno to BQE
Now for the mystery. According the History of Queens County, published by Munsell & Co. in 1882, the deed included a "little island, lying about west from the house"--how's that for accuracy? The island was named Married Island, "on account of the manner in which it was obtained." In other words, when Fradell got the widow, he got the island.

So what happened to Married Island? I can't find any reference to it beyond the account in the History of Queens County cited above and a similar one in Early Long Island: A Colonial Study by Martha Bockee Flint (1896).

It was too small to be what would become Roosevelt Island, that's for sure. U Thant Island, which has its own interesting history, only resulted from the much later construction of "trolley tunnels" to Manhattan. Did it sink into the East River, like a tiny Atlantis? Or did it somehow become incorporated into the Long Island mainland? Or, here's my theory, was it used as a prototype for Myles na gCopaleen's "land migration scheme"?

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