In the early 1800s, tensions were high with the newly ousted British and to protect itself, America had started building forts along its capital, New York City. Castle Clinton, or the West Battery as it was then known, was one of those forts. The fort was built on a man made island right off the west coast of Manhattan with construction beginning in 1808. Though the fort was built in time for the War of 1812, it never saw action and the water separating it from the main island was eventually filled in making it an extension of Manhattan.
Since then, Castle Clinton has gone through more wardrobe changes than the Rockets, going from a beer garden, exhibition hall, opera house, and theater to, in 1855, becoming the Emigrant Landing Depot until 1890 when Ellis Island was built. It was during this time that Castle Clinton became known as Castle Garden, which Yiddish-speaking immigrants called Kesselgarden, a term that gradually made it’s way into the languages vernacular meaning “a noisy, crowded, place.”
The fort’s most famous incarnation though came in 1896 when it was turned into the New York City Aquarium. Through the aquarium’s nearly 50 year existence, it was New York City’s most famous attraction but in 1941, Robert Moses shut it down, moving it to Coney Island, Brooklyn. Today, Castle Clinton is still one of New York’s most visited parks, as the ticket booth for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
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