Castle Clinton National Monument

Fort Clinton; Castle Garden


Castle Clinton or Fort Clinton, previously known as Castle Garden, is a circular sandstone fort located in Battery Park, in Manhattan, New York City. Built from 1808 to 1811, it was the first American immigration station, predating Ellis Island, where more than 8 million people arrived in the United States from 1855 to 1890.

Constructed, 1811

Originally erected in 1808-1811 as the Southwest Battery for the War of 1812, Castle Clinton was part of the NY Harbor Coastal Fortification system. It was originally located 300 feet offshore and connected to Manhattan via a bridge. The castle itself was converted to administrative headquarters for the Army. Simultaneously, at the end of the war, there was a public movement to build a park in the Battery area.

West Battery was renamed Castle Clinton, its current official name, in honor of New York City Mayor DeWitt Clinton (who eventually became Governor of New York). An 1816 proposal to construct two small office buildings at Castle Clinton was canceled due to public opposition, and the castle lay dormant for three years. Even in 1820, it was only being used as a paymaster's quarters and storage area.

Decommissioned, 1821
Converted, 1824

The United States Army stopped using the fort in 1821, and it was ceded to the city by an act of Congress in March 1822. By then, the bridge leading to Castle Clinton was frequently used by fishermen who were catching fish from the bridge, which connected to the shore at the foot of Broadway. In 1823 it was ceded to the City, rechristened Castle Gardens and in 1824 an addition of a restaurant and entertainment center was erected. Castle Garden operated as an opera house and theater until 1854.

Converted, 1855

In 1855, now leased to NY State, Castle Garden opened as an immigration landing depot. During the next 34 years almost 8 million immigrants entered the United States through Castle Garden until scandal led to its closure in 1890. The immigration processing was transferred to federal control and relocated to the Barge Office and then to Ellis Island in 1892.

Converted, 1896

McKim Mead & White redesigned the building as the New York City Aquarium, opening in 1896.

Bought, 1950

It was one of the city's most popular attractions until it closed in 1941, when a vindictive Robert Moses (who had recently been prevented him building the Brooklyn-Battery Bridge), tried to demolish it. Thanks to supporters in the City and Federal Government, the fort became part of the National Park System in 1946 and was saved. The federal government finally obtained the property on July 18, 1950, after the city deeded the land and castle to the federal government. A project to renovate Castle Clinton was announced in 1956 after funding had been secured.

Restored, 1975

A major rehabilitation took place in the 1970s, and Castle Clinton reopened in 1975. It is currently administered by the National Park Service and is a departure point for visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In addition, the fort contains a small history exhibit and occasionally hosts concerts. Castle Clinton has largely been restored to its original appearance. The National Park Service restored it in 1986 as the original Castle Clinton. Tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are sold inside the fort.


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