Grand Island lies in the Niagara River, which forms part of the boundary between Canada and the United States. The island has an area of 17,381 acres (about 27 square miles). It is part of Erie County, New York.
In 1824, Major Mordecai Manuel Noah, a prominent Jewish resident of New York City conceived the idea that the island could be established as a mini-state and safe haven for Jews from around the world. He envisioned the building of a great metropolis on Grand Island.
Considering that populous modern cities and nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Manhattan are on small islands, the idea is not as mad as it must have seemed in 1824. Major Noah began buying tracts of land on the island, and in 1825 established the first all-Jewish settlement there, naming his prospective nation "Ararat" after the mountain where the biblical Noah's Ark came to rest. About 1,200 Jews eventually settled in Ararat, a far cry from Major Noah's grand vision for Grand Island. The mini-state was never formally established.
However, Grand Island was not forgotten to history. In 1945, it was considered that the United States might cede the island, establishing it as the world's "Peace Capital," an independent home for the United Nations. The U.N. chose to establish its permanent home in Manhattan instead.