Witness to a Changing America
The American Revolution painfully taught New Yorkers that their city needed better protection against enemy fleets. By the War of 1812 a stout circular sandstone battery was erected just off Manhattan Island's southern tip. First called South-west Battery, and off shore then, it never fired a shot except for target practice. Nonetheless it was integral, with four other new forts, to a young nation's New York Harbor defense.
A maturing nation's thoughts turned to entertainment, and Castle Clintonrenamed in 1817 for former mayor and future governor DeWitt Clintonbecame Castle Garden in 1824. It hosted public events like band concerts and fireworks and, adding a roof in the 1840s, opera and theater. By the early 1850s Castle Garden was joined to the mainland by landfill, which created Battery Park. To serve new immigrants, the State of New York turned Castle Garden into an immigrant stationprocessing eight million from 1855 to 1890. One in six Americans today is descended from a person entering here.
A growing national passion for science saw Castle Garden converted into the New York City Aquarium in 1896. It first housed only nearby species but soon ship captains were collecting exotic fishes for it from around the world.
Much of Castle Garden was demolished in construction for a tunnel project in the 1940s,but Castle Clinton's basic structure stood. It became a national monument in 1946.In the 1970s it was restored. The National Park Service now cares for this grand witness of our heritage, and we invite you to join us in preserving it.
Quiet Cannons, Opera Divas, Fish, and More
Presidents and other dignitaries would be honored here. Samuel F.B. Morse displayed his telegraph invention. A roof added in the 1840s made even grander events possible. Promoted by P.T. Barnum of later circus fame, the wildly popular Swedish opera diva Jenny Lind made her American debut here in 1850, enthralling her audience of 6,000.
Planning Your Visit
Castle Clinton is in Battery Park at Manhattan's southern tip. It is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except December 25. View the museum exhibits near the entrance. Visit the bookstore on the parade ground.
Ticket sales for the ferry out to Liberty and Ellis islands are housed at the other kiosk nearby.
Please be careful and have a safe and enjoyable visit.
Source: NPS Brochure (2010)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
Castle Garden as an Immigrant Depot, 1855-1890 (George J. Svejda, December 2, 1968)
Historic Structures Report: Castle Clinton, Castle Clinton National Monument (Part I) (Thomas M. Pitkin, May 6, 1960)
Masonry Forts of the National Park Service: Special History Study (F. Ross Holland, Jr. and Russell Jones, August 1973)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
Castle Clinton / Castle Garden (Amy Millman and Robert Weible, February 1983 and March 1984)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 01-May-2021