Castle Clinton in Battery Park, New York City Perspective view (Northwest) of main gate Castle Clinton in Battery Park, New York City Perspective view (Northwest) of main gate - ImagesGram

Castle Clinton in Battery Park, New York City Perspective view (Northwest) of main gate

Castle Clinton or Fort Clinton, previously known as Castle Garden, is a circular sandstone fort now located in Battery Park, in Manhattan, New York City. Built from 1808 to 1811, it was the first U.S. immigration station (predating Ellis Island), where more than 8 million people arrived in the United States from 1855 to 1890. Over its active life, it has also functioned as a beer garden, exhibition hall, theater, and public aquarium. Castle Clinton National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

Original use

Castle Clinton stands slightly west of where Fort Amsterdam was built in 1626, when New York City was known by the Dutch name New Amsterdam. Fort Amsterdam was demolished by 1790 after the American Revolutionary War.  Proposals for a new fort were made after two separate war scares involving Britain and France in the 1790s, but neither plan was ultimately carried out. By 1805, there were growing tensions between Britain and the U.S., which would mark the run-up to the War of 1812. Late that year, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Williams of the United States Army Engineers began planning a series of fortifications in New York Harbor. Williams was part of a group of three commissioners who, in 1807, submitted a report that recommended the construction of fortifications in New York Harbor.

Castle Clinton, originally known as West Battery and sometimes as Southwest Battery, was built on a small artificial island just off shore. Construction began in 1808 and the fort was completed in 1811,:91 though modifications continued through the 1820s.  Designed by John McComb, Jr. and Jonathan Williams, West Battery was roughly circular shaped with a radius of approximately 92 feet (28 m), contained a red brick facade, and had 28 "thirty-two pounder" cannons. About one-eighth of the circle was left "unfinished", with a straight wall constructed between the "unfinished" segments. West Battery was intended to complement the three-tiered Castle Williams, the East Battery, on Governors Island. Though garrisoned in 1812, the fort never saw action in any war.

By 1815, West Battery was renamed Castle Clinton, its current official name, in honor of New York City Mayor DeWitt Clinton (who eventually became Governor of New York). The castle itself was converted to administrative headquarters for the Army. Simultaneously, at the end of the war, there was a public movement to build a park in the Battery area. A 1816 proposal to construct two small office buildings at Castle Clinton was canceled due to public opposition, and the castle lay dormant for three years. Even in 1820, it was only being used as a paymaster's quarters and storage area.The United States Army stopped using the fort in 1821, and it was ceded to the city by an act of Congress in March 1822. By then, the bridge leading to Castle Clinton was frequently used by fishermen who were catching fish from the bridge.