Castle Garden was constructed between 1808 and 1811 to serve as a fort on the tip of Manhattan. Originally dubbed West Battery, the fort protected New York from possible invasions by European nations and was manned throughout the war of 1812. However, West Battery and its twenty-eight guns never saw action; its presence alone was enough to persuade British forces not to attack New York. Three years later, it was renamed Castle Clinton after the mayor of New York City, Dewitt Clinton and still officially holds that name to this day. Leased to the city by the United States Army in 1821, the fort underwent renovations and reopened as Castle Garden in 1824.
Castle Garden quickly became a great cultural center and a place of public entertainment. It was used as a restaurant, opera house, exhibition hall, and in 1896 was remodeled as the New York Aquarium. Throughout the 19th century, the fort saw many great American and international figures. Revolutionary War General Marquis de Lafayette’s triumphant return to America began in Castle Garden, where he was greeted by a major general’s salute. In 1833, President Andrew Jackson landed at the Castle and was welcomed by hundreds of New Yorkers along the waterfront edge. Two years later, the Castle hosted Samuel Morse, who used it as a venue to display the use of his telegraph to the public. Despite its walls bearing witness too many famous historical figures, the Castle saw the emigration of millions of other figures, not quite as famous as Presidents or Generals.
More than eight million immigrants traveled through Castle Garden from its opening day as New York’s Emigrant Landing Depot on August 1st, 1855, to its closure in 1890, when it was superseded by Ellis Island. In the mid-1900s, Castle Garden was ordered to be demolished by Robert Moses as part of his Brooklyn to Battery Bridge plan. Fortunately, his plans were too costly and while the aquarium was destroyed, the fort remained standing. Castle Garden became a national monument on July 18th, 1950 and still stands today in Battery Park, operated by the National Park Service. The Castle has been restored much to its former glory; with its open ceiling and replica guns the fort resembles its former self in the early 1800s. There is also a museum located within the fort and great views of the waterfront and the statue of liberty from its location at the Southern tip of Manhattan.