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Bicentennial of Castle Clinton Celebrated

National Parks of New York Harbor

National Park News

Castle Clinton was built between 1808 and 1811 and served as a defense of New York Harbor during the War of 1812. Originally known as the Southwest Battery, it was dedicated on November 25, 1811.

On November 25, 2011, the National Park Service held a special daylong celebration to honor Castle Clinton’s 200th anniversary.

“Castle Clinton has served New York City in varying capacities over the past two centuries: fort, performance venue, immigration station, aquarium and national park,” said Superintendent Shirley McKinney. “We’re excited to celebrate its bicentennial with this program that showcases its beginnings as an essential part of the city’s harbor defense system – a system that was so effective and intimidating, that this ‘castle’ never had to fire on a British warship.”

The day’s festivities began with a cannon firing and flag raising and the charge of celebration was led by a George Washington himself. The presidential re-enactor took the stage and spoke about how unfinished business from the Revolutionary War contributed to the War of 1812.

Visitors learned about the privateers – some of who were women, who sailed from New York to harass and capture British ships during this second conflict between America and England. New York Harbor’s special defense system, made up of fortifications on Governors, Liberty and Ellis Islands as well as the Verrazano Narrows and Sandy Hook in New Jersey, was highlighted in a ranger tour that day as well.

Throughout the day there were opportunities to hear period music, take tours of Castle Clinton National Monument, and talk with costumed re-enactors about what life was like for an American soldier manning what was then the Southwest Battery and what a Red Coat soldier thought about the defenses that New York built to keep the British from ever invading the city again. More than 50 children earned Junior Ranger badges by learning what it took to be a soldier and then taking part in a practice drill.

The Southwest Battery was constructed on the rocks off the tip of Manhattan Island between 1808 and 1811. In 1817, the fort was renamed Castle Clinton in honor of DeWitt Clinton, mayor and later governor of New York. After the army vacated the fort in 1821, the structure underwent a number of incarnations – as a restaurant, theater and immigration station, even an aquarium.

Saved from demolition in 1946, Castle Clinton was restored to its original look as a fortification. Now the fort built to keep out the British serves to welcome visitors to America. Learn more by clicking on the link below or by following news on Twitter @CastleClinton .


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