In colonial times Shooter’s Island was used as a hunting preserve. Its role changed during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), as George Washington used the island as a drop-off point for messages, and the place became a haven for spies. Following the Revolutionary War, the island’s large oyster beds were harvested so frequently that they were soon exhausted from over harvesting. In the late 1800s the island saw human interest on a large scale.
In the 1860s David Decker established a small shipyard on the island. Other companies soon followed, such as the Shooter’s Island Petroleum Refining and Storage Company, and the Townsend-Downey Shipbuilding Company, which built cruising and racing yachts, including a lavish racing yacht for Kaiser Wilhelm II, emperor of Germany. The 1902 launch of this great boat attracted President Theodore Roosevelt and two thousand other guests.