Castle Clinton National Monument

Castle Clinton National Monument, at the tip of Manhattan, has had a long and varied existence. The circular fortress was built between 1808 and 1811 as one of a series of forts to protect New York City from potential British aggression.

Castle Clinton National Monument
©National Park Service
Castle Clinton stands as a memorial to Colonial times in Manhattan's Battery Park.

Originally known as the Southwest Battery, its name was changed after the War of 1812 to Castle Clinton in honor of DeWitt Clinton, a former mayor of the city and later governor of New York State. No longer needed to defend New York, Castle Clinton was turned into a civic garden in 1824, is now Castle Clinton National Monument.

A newspaper described Castle Garden as a "fanciful garden, tastefully ornamented with shrubs and flowers." It was the setting for fireworks, gala concerts, an occasional balloon ascension, and scientific demonstrations. A month after its opening, the Marquis de Lafayette began his year-long tour of America at the Garden. Castle Garden served as a theater for more than a quarter century.

In 1855, Castle Garden became the depot for immigrants entering the country. For the first time, immigrants were protected from people who roamed the wharves looking for gullible newcomers to cheat.

After Ellis Island became the immigration center in 1892, Castle Clinton became an aquarium and then finally a museum and information center for National Park Service sites in metropolitan New York. The walls of the original fort remain intact; inside, exhibits trace the evolution of Castle Clinton.