Arkham Island was once the site of the palatial estate of the Arkham family, one of the early powerful families of the city, wealthy from whaling. The Arkhams have long since descended into obscurity or died out. Their estate was divided into smaller commercial plots, today there is an area filled with small machine shops and welding firms called Welders Row. The Old Arkham Docks from whaling days, still exist, despite being neglected for decades.
The main house, however, was bought by the state government in 1894 and converted into the Arkham State Sanitarium for the Criminally Insane, Arkham Asylum, as it is popularly known.