Star Island is located eight miles off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It is part of the Isles of Shoals, a collection of from nine to eighteen (depending on who is counting) rocky ledges and small islands. The named islands are (from north to south) Duck, Appledore, Smuttynose, Cedar, Lunging, Seavys, and White. Star is about 150 acres and is so named because it is shaped like a rough star.
The first European to discover the Isles was Captain John Smith (yes, that John Smith), who praised its wonderful fishing and named them the Smith Islands. But he never carried out his plans to found a colony. Neither did his name stick, instead being replaced by a reference to the fishing -- shoals has an alternate meaning of schools of fish.
Appledore and Smuttynose were first settled around 1640. When Massachusetts annexed Maine and those islands, the settlers picked up their houses and floated them southward to Star and the lighter taxation of New Hampshire. They formed an anarchistic community which in 1714 was incorporated as the town of Gosport.
In 1732, civilization arrived in the form of the Harvard-educated Rev. John Tucke. For almost 50 years, he acted as minister, teacher, magistrate and doctor, fighting a continual battle against drunkenness, wife-beating, prostitution, and other excesses of the flesh.
Star Island was evacuated in 1776 because there was no way to protect residents from the British Navy. Although the islands were resettled after the Revolutionary War, the fishing industry never fully recovered. The community slowly declined over the next hundred years.
In 1848,the Appledore Hotel was built on the largest island. It became a grand vacation retreat for the nearby Boston Brahmins. In 1873 a competing hotel, the Oceanic, was built on Star.
The Appledore Hotel burned in 1914, and the heat from the flames was so intense that it scorched the paint on the Oceanic a mile away. The Star Island Corporation was formed by the Unitarian and the Congregational Churches and bought the Oceanic for $16,000. Since then (except for the World Wars), the island hosts a series of weeklong retreats and religious conferences throughout the summer.
Star is accessible via a 45 minutes ferry ride (passenger only) several times a day during the summer months. The public is invited on a walking tour managed by the Isles Steamship Company, and includes a visit to the museum.