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Medieval Impostors:

Clinton Castle

by Lavina Andrews and Joana Ramos

In Battery Park next to the Ellis Island ferries on the Southern tip of Manhattan stands Castle Clinton. It is one of five forts built in the early 1800's by the United States to defend the New York Harbor. Castle Clinton was originally constructed in 1811 under the name "South West Battery" on a small island and was linked to Manhattan by a 200 ft wooden causeway and drawbridge. However, Battery Park was soon extended with landfill to include the castle.

The fort is made of sandstone in a "D" shape with the round part facing the river. To keep the fort safe, a 150 ton, 1800 ft chain was developed in three months and linked across the Hudson River. Although the fort had twenty-eight cannons and was an important defense during the War of 1812 period, it never saw military action. 

In 1815 it was renamed to honor the New York governor DeWitt Clinton. That same year, Castle Clinton was made Headquarters, U.S. Third Military District but the Headquarters was moved to Governor's Island in 1820. The United States Army gave the castle to New York City in 1823, and, since then, it has been many things:  

  • Castle Clinton was a fashionable amphitheater named "Castle Garden" in 1824. It was renovated into a concert hall in 1845. 
  • Between 1855 and 1890, about eight million immigrants entered the United States through the then Emigrant Landing Depot.

  • Castle Clinton was the home to many fish from 1896 to 1941 when it housed the New York City Aquarium.

  • Castle Clinton was designated as a National Monument in 1946 and became a part of the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service. It was restored to once more look like a stone fort.
  • Finally, today Castle Clinton is the ticket center for visits to the Statue of Liberty.

  • Castle Clinton Battery Park by the South Ferry (212) 344 - 7220 8:30 am - 5:00 pm Sunday - Saturday (except on Christmas)

    Medieval New York | Castles Main Page | Castle Clinton | Belvedere Castle

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    © Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 20 January 2021 [CV]