Castle Clinton: History in Manhatten

Inside Castle Clinton National Monument, New York City

Inside Castle Clinton

In my last post, I talked about taking the Staten Island Ferry from Staten Island to Manhattan.  Once we got there, the question was, what were we going to do?  We decided to take a short walk (less than ½ mile (1 km) one way) to Castle Clinton National Monument.  The monument is known as the place to purchase tickets for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, but you can go there even if you aren’t buying tickets.  We enjoyed seeing the old stonework and reading the interpretive signs inside the “castle”.  You’ll find the history of the monument, as well as displays about other old buildings in the area.  It’s not really a destination unto itself, but if you’re looking for something simple and easy to do after your ferry ride, this is a great place to go.



To get to Castle Clinton from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, turn left out of the terminal doors.  Walk parallel to the waterfront until you find a path that leads through a kind of garden/park.  You can either take the paved path near the street or a paved path near the waterfront.  Alternatively, you could enjoy the gardens by walking along a sandier path in between these two paved paths.  Because one member of our group was in a wheelchair that day, we decided to take the paved paths.  The area is very wheelchair friendly, so it’s a great destination for those with disabilities as well as the active history seeker.


Flowers near Castle Clinton National Monument, New York City

Flowers on the way to the Castle…note the Statue of Liberty in the background

After less than ½ mile (1 km), you’ll come to a street crossing that doesn’t seem to have any cars on it.  Right across from here, you’ll be able to see the old stone walls of Castle Clinton.  Cross the street and enter through one of the doors—if you took the path near the waterfront.  If you took the paved path nearer to the street, you’ll be able to enter the front gates between the signs that say, “Castle Clinton National Monument”.  For those who chose the waterfront route, the wheelchair-friendly access off of the curb can be difficult to locate.  Keep going right along the “road” until you find it.


A close-up of the cannon hole, Castle Clinton National Monument, New York City

A close-up of the cannon hole

Once inside, you can enjoy the different exhibits about Castle Clinton and other historical buildings in the area.  Did you know that Castle Clinton was first built as a fort to protect NYC before the Revolutionary War?  Later, it was a popular weekend attraction for city-folk, and also served as a place for processing immigrants until Ellis Island was established.  Even after the advent of Ellis Island, the first- and second-class passengers were still processed at Castle Clinton, while the third-class passengers went to Ellis.  Later, the Castle was turned into an aquarium (one member of my group vividly remembers taking the Staten Island Ferry while in grade school in the 1930s and visiting this aquarium—she was thrilled to take the ferry again, all these years later, and to see the place where the aquarium was!).  When the aquarium was demolished to make room for the Battery Tunnel, the old walls of Castle Clinton were discovered—and a group set about preserving the Castle from demolition.


A cannon in Castle Clinton National Monument, New York City

A cannon in the Castle

My favorite exhibit was over on the bay-side wall that had pictures and a history of the Castle.  There were even pictures from some excavations that were done around 2005 that uncovered even older walls of the fort.  These have since been covered up, to preserve them for future generations.  Walk around the colonnade within the fort, enjoying the exhibits.  There’s even an old cannon on display, as well as small plaques about various historical buildings in the area.  I also enjoyed seeing the holes in the wall that were used to point guns through.  It’s fun to read about the history, even if it’s not that interesting otherwise.


Stonework inside Castle Clinton National Monument, New York City

Stonework inside the Castle

When you’re done looking at the fort, return by the way you came to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.  You can also continue to walk along the waterfront for a very long way—I haven’t done this, although I’ve seen it on maps as a bike-friendly path.  Instead, we opted to go back past the terminal to the East River Esplanade—but I’ll talk about that in next week’s post!


Round Trip Trail Length: About 1 mile (2 km)

Facilities: Restrooms, concessions, bookstore, drinking fountains

Fees: None (unless you pay $8 to park for the Staten Island Ferry)


Trail ★★★★★

Road ★★★★☆

Signs ★★★★☆

Scenery ★★☆☆☆

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★☆☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆


This Week’s Featured Product!

Want to know more about Castle Clinton?  This book is a history in pictures of the national monument.  Rare photos and inside details are included.  It’s very interesting, especially considering you won’t get this much information at the Castle itself.



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