Although inclement weather kept the ribbon cutting and ground breaking from taking place at Governors Island, May 24th was still an exciting day as National Parks of New York Harbor Commissioner Maria Burks announced the re-opening of Castle Williams, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new 30-acre park overseen by the Trust for Governors Island.
“For the first time since Governors Island National Monument was established, the public now has a chance to visit the top of Castle Williams via a ranger-led tour and take in the breath-taking views of New York Harbor and lower Manhattan,” said Burks.
Castle Williams opened to the public on Saturday, May 26. After nearly three years of renovations, people will now be able to access the top of this unique fort by taking a ranger-led tour. Visitors can learn about the history of Governors Island in an intimate setting, as tours are limited to 15 people. New exhibits inside Castle Williams outline its changing history from a fort built to defend New York City against the British during the War of 1812 to a federal prison. This summer marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 – the war this fort was built for, which makes its re-opening even more timely.
The rehabilitation project was funded in large part by a $5.58 million grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), with an additional $1.35 million appropriation secured through efforts of Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY- 8th District). The National Park Service provided remaining project funds. The money went toward the development and installation of interpretive exhibits, abatement of hazardous materials, removal of health and safety hazards, and repair of structural deficiencies. To honor his assistance, the NPS presented Congressman Nadler with a special framed award, titled “Preserving History for Future Generations” consisting of a historic photo of the Castle along with an artistic rendering and a plaque noting the significance of Castle Williams.
Castle Williams is open from 10 am to 4:15 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays during the public access season. Visitors should pick up a timed, free ticket from the nearby ticketing gazebo to access the Castle Williams courtyard and new exhibits. Free tickets for the roof tour are also available from the ticketing gazebo.
Superintendent Patti Reilly invites everyone to explore Governors Island National Monument as “the Castle begins a new chapter as a dynamic and educational experience for all Americans.”