Located in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, New York City, Castle Clinton National Monument is a sandstone fort that has served many purposes since it was completed in 1811.
Established as a national monument in 1946, Castle Clinton was originally known as West Battery and was designed by architects John McComb Jr. and Jonathan Williams. It originally sat on a small island just offshore and was built to defend the city from British forces during the War of 1812. However, this fort and its partner fort - Battery East (Castle Williams) on Governor's Island - never saw any military action.
Eventually, as landfill expanded the boundaries of Battery Park, the castle ended up on the mainland, and soon after the War of 1812, it was named Castle Clinton in honor of New York City mayor, Dewitt Clinton. The army ceased use of the fort in 1821. A few years later, it became Castle Gardens, an entertainment venue that, over the years, included an opera house, beer garden, theater, and exhibition hall.
In 1855, it became a port of entry for immigrants coming to the United States through New York City. Pre-dating Ellis Island, Castle Gardens - called the Emigrant Landing Depot - served as an immigrant processing facility for more than 35 years. About 6 years after it closed and the facility moved to Ellis Island, Castle Clinton became the New York City Aquarium, long one of the most popular attracts in the city. It eventually closed in 1941 and though several politicians wanted to demolish the building, it was saved and soon became a National Monument.
Today, Castle Clinton National Monument is a testament to all it has been throughout the last two centuries. Tours of this historic structure, offered several times each day and led by National Park rangers, inform visitors as to its rich history and allow a look inside. Tours last just 20 minutes and no reservations are required.
In addition to tours, costumed re-enactors at Castle Clinton National Monument teach guests about the War of 1812 and profile military life as a member of America's very young Army. These presentations are offered to groups by reservation and are free of charge.
Performances are still occasionally held at Castle Clinton National Monument and feature a large variety of music, dance, theater, and other genres. A visit to the castle also provides excellent views of the Upper New York Bay and visitors are welcome to grab a bench and enjoy lunch near the castle.
Castle Clinton National Monument is also the departure location for ferries to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The ticket booth for Statue Cruises, the official ferry to the two monuments, is located inside the castle.
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