This island was known as Herr's Island for over 200 years. Named for Benjamin Herr, a Swiss Mennonite, the island became an idyllic village with fruit trees and gardens. Herr operated a water-powered mill in the back channel as packet boats floated by on the Pennsylvania Canal.
After the Civil War, lumber and oil industries took advantage of the island location for oil refineries and saw mills. By the early 1900s, Herr's Island changed again due to legislation requiring railroads to provide a rest stop for animals traveling from Midwest to the East Coast. Onto the island moved a large stockyard followed by meat packing plants, a sawmill, fertilizer works, a railroad salvage yard, and the city garbage dump. Garbage and refuse were piled so high the railroads had to elevate their bridges.
After the stockyards and garbage dumps closed in the 1970s, Herr's Island was left as a contaminated "brown field." Today, the island symbolizes the City's ability to transform and old industrial site into a beautiful community and park. Century-old iron and steel railroad bridges remain to commemorate the industrial past. The new island development site is named Washington's Landing to honor George Washington who spent a night here after nearly drowning in the icy river in 1753.