Castle Clinton National Monument
If your ancestors arrived in this country via New York between 1855 and 1890, chances are they passed through immigration at Castle Clinton (aka Castle Garden) and not Ellis Island. All the more fitting that, today, this is the jumping-off point for ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island national monuments. Before you embark, take in the splendid harbor views and check out the often-overlooked exhibits showcasing the structure’s storied past, which is intrinsically linked to the history of early 19th-century Manhattan.
What was originally known as the Southwest Battery was completed in 1811 as part of a string of harbor defenses built in response to the threat of British invasion. After the War of 1812, the battery was renamed Castle Clinton in honor of DeWitt Clinton, a former city mayor and later New York State’s governor. In 1824, the fort became city property, was renamed Castle Garden, and was a popular entertainment spot prior to its 35-year stint as an immigration station. In 1896, the fort reopened as the New York City Aquarium. In 1941, when plans for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel included demolition of the building, the Aquarium closed. Under pressure from historically-minded citizens, the structure was preserved.
Admission to Castle Clinton is free, as are the 20-minute ranger tours held daily at 10, noon, 2, and 4. Statue Cruises ferries stop at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, both out and back, so you can hop off to see the statue before continuing on to Ellis Island or vice versa. Cruises often sell out; booking in advance is highly recommended.
- New York, New York 10004
- 40.70294000, -74.01437000
- Fort: daily 7:45--5. Statue Cruises ticket kiosk: daily 8:30--3:30.
- Visit Website
- (212) 344-7220