By Dave Caplan
When you take a New York Water Taxi down the Hudson River and get off at Battery Park you will come face to face with one of the most historic and versatile buildings in New York City, Castle Clinton.
Like the city itself, Castle Clinton has changed to respond to the many needs of a growing metropolis. First built as a Fort on an artificial island just off the shores of the Battery, the 28 thirty-two pound cannons inside were sufficient to deter any British attack during the War of 1812. Originally called the West Battery when it opened in 1811, it was renamed Castle Clinton after Mayor Dewitt Clinton in1815.
From 1824 to 1855 it was the largest public hall and entertainment venue in the United States. The “Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind kicked off her new tour with a concert there in 1850 promoted by none other than P.T. Barnum. Known for its open air atmosphere, visitors would flock to the elevated walkways along the fort’s walls for unsurpassed views of the New York Harbor.
Run by the State from 1855 to 1890 immigration for some 8 to 9 million newcomers transpired inside the walls of what was now called Castle Gardens. In 1890 the Federal Government took over immigration and all processing was moved to Ellis Island in 1892.
In 1896 the building was transformed again into the New York Aquarium which was one of the first public aquariums in the United States. For many years it was the most popular attraction in New York City. It drew over 2.5 million visitors annually.
Saved from complete demolition by Congress in 1946 and declared a National Monument, only the 19th Century walls remain as a testament to the multi-faceted building that has served New York for over 200 years.
Trivia answer from last week: -Ebbets Field
Trivia question: Where do the NY Mets play?
Mystery photo last week: The Ansonia@Broadway and 73rd