Battery Park, Manhattan.
Open daily, 7:45am-5pm.
Castle Clinton is wheelchair accessible.
Castle Clinton (NPS), 212-344-7220
A historically multi-purpose fort in Battery Park
Castle Clinton, a mélange of past and present, is a window into the city's history and a prime venue for tours and performances, as well as the ticketing gateway to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Built in 1811, after the storm of revolution had passed, it was one of the earliest military undertakings of the new nation anticipating the possibility of further conflict with Britain, which came to pass in the War of 1812. Commissioned by Congress, the speed of its construction is a testament to how quickly and effectively America organized its government. Although it never saw combat, the fort provided a strategic military presence at the northern edge of New York Harbor, which had first been fortified by the Dutch and then English rulers of the colonial city. In fact a remnant of that original battery wall from which Battery Park derives its name is on display inside the fort.
Castle Clinton's military use was short-lived as new defenses positioned further out in the harbor were created. The Castle was turned over to the city in 1824 and a complete renovation transformed the structure into Castle Garden. For 32 years the lavish Castle Clinton served as one of America's great entertainment centers, hosting such notable events as the triumphal return of the Marquis de Lafayette to America in 1824 and the debut of famed opera diva Jenny Lind in 1850.
In 1855, Castle Clinton's role changed again when it became the first official immigrant reception station operated by the State of New York. Almost 8 million immigrants were processed here. In 1890, when the federal government took charge of the immigration process, it was replaced by a new facility on Ellis Island. In 1896, the building re-opened as the experimental New York Aquarium, displaying species from local waters and later, more exotic creatures from further afield. When the aquarium closed in 1941, the fish were moved to the Bronx Zoo and then eventually to the new aquarium on Coney Island.
In 1946, Castle Clinton National Monument was authorized and the National Park Service assumed stewardship of the site. Earlier modifications were removed and the appearance of the site has been restored to that of the original fort, complete with replica cannons.
Things to Do
Check the NPS Castle Clinton schedule for tours of the fort & museum.
Downtown Walking Tours
History, concerts and walking tours.