Last Friday was a beautiful summer day in Boston, a great day to explore the Boston Harbor Islands. In addition to the great weather, I was particularly enthused for this island adventure because it was my first opportunity to check out the brand new visitor center and Summer Shack eatery on Georges Island, home to historic Fort Warren.

After months of construction, the former mine storage building on Georges Island has been transformed into a new visitor center featuring a museum on the ground level. (A gift shop inside the center will open next year.) The museum’s exhibits focus not just on Fort Warren, but more broadly on the history of Boston’s coastal defenses from the birth of the Massachusetts Bay Colony through the Cold War. A number of the museum exhibits focus on a day in the life of the Union soldiers stationed at Fort Warren during the Civil War along with the Confederate prisoners who were held captive there (Perhaps I missed it, but one subject I didn’t see covered was the fort’s infamous ghost—the Lady in Black.)

One of the most interesting items on display is a dinner table featuring six plates of food representing typical meals for the Confederate prisoners of war and the Union soldiers, varying by rank. Contrary to our modern-day concept of POWs, some of the Confederate prisoners dined much more sumptuously than their Union captors.

No doubt both Union and Confederate soldiers would have enjoyed the fare now being served on the island by the new outpost of Jasper White’s Summer Shack. The menu includes lobster rolls, fried shrimp, fried clams, and other summertime favorites. A new open-air pavilion offers great views of the Boston skyline along with a shady place to chill out.

There’s also a new children’s playground area that’s constructed to look like a section of the granite fort. Toddlers might enjoy the slide and peering out the narrow windows of the structure like one of the island’s former residents, but its features are limited compared to other city playgrounds.

After exploring the inside of Fort Warren, take a seat in one of the new teak Adirondack chairs that look out on Boston Harbor and some of the other islands. The captivating views are appropriate for this former island prison.

Go to the Boston Harbor Islands website for ferry tickets to Georges Island, and be sure to tote along your copy of Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands for a full history of Fort Warren.