Monday, July 18, 2011

Castle Clinton: Battery Park

Castle Clinton (named after former NYC mayor and governor DeWitt Clinton) has had many lives.  While it may not be the most glamorous place today, its rich history should not be ignored and it takes just a few minutes to take a contemplative view of the place.

It started as a fort in 1811-1822 as part of a five-fort defensive system for the port of New York around the time of the War of 1812 (see above diorama of the fort, which was connected to Manhattan only by a bridge).  From 1824-1854, it was renamed Castle Garden and was a place where famous artists performed and heads of state and heroes were greeted in the City of New York (see diorama at right of the fort connected to Manhattan by landfill).  Castle Garden was next an immigration center for the next 35 years.  During that period 2 of every 3 immigrants came through Castle Garden.  From 1896 through 1941 it became the New York City Aquarium with sea life first from around the New York area and later from around the world.  After the aquarium was dismantled (with the sea life dispatched to the Bronx Zoo and Coney Island) the fort was saved from the wrecking ball by a citizens group that was able to get it designated as a national monument in 1946. 

Today, Castle Clinton is a historic site where you can learn a little about the history of the fort, but most just use it as a will call for tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  People just walk by this little piece of history without much thought, but I would recommend taking an extra few minutes to appreciate the the fort which helped protect this city and allowed it to develop into what it is today.  Look at the cannon (see left), the original rock wall foundations and the dioramas (they're free).

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