More than a dozen forts were built to defend New York Harbor at the time of the War of 1812. The Southwest Battery was constructed on the rocks off the tip of Manhattan Island between 1808 and 1811. Although fully armed and staffed, the fort never had occasion to fire upon an enemy. In 1817, the fort was renamed Castle Clinton in honor of DeWitt Clinton, Mayor of New York City. The army vacated the fort in 1821 and the structure was deeded to New York City in 1823. In the summer of 1824, a new restaurant and entertainment center opened at the site, now called Castle Garden. A roof was added in the 1840s and Castle Garden served as an opera house and theater until 1854.
On August 3, 1855, Castle Garden, now leased to New York State, opened as an immigrant landing depot.
During the next 34 years, over 8 million people entered the United States through Castle Garden, until it was closed on April 18, 1890. The building was altered once again and reopened as the New York City Aquarium on December 10, 1896. It was one of the city's most popular attractions until it closed in 1941.
Castle Clinton National Monument is located in the Financial District neighborhood of Manhattan. The financial hub of the United States, the seat of New York City government, and home to some of New York's oldest buildings, the Financial District has an illustrious history. 17th century settlers began building here, and given the many seafarers of the time, boats could be conveniently docked at one of the slips right near the settlements of wooden homes. Right nearby, in the heart of the district is Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States in 1789, also the meeting site for the First Congress. New York City was both the capital of the United States and New York State at the time. The street names reflect the district's fascinating history: Fulton Street, named after Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat; Maiden Lane, originally called Magde Platje in Dutch; Beaver Street, recalling the once-significant beaver pelt trade, etc. The area today houses some great economic powerhouses, including the headquarters of major banks, the New York Stock Exchange, in addition to the World Financial Center. Contrasts are extraordinary, from old two- and three-story old brick buildings near South Street Seaport to the nearby modern mega-skyscrapers. Some of the numerous other attractions include Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington bid farewell to his troops (also, they have a museum!); the newly-landscaped City Hall Park; the Museum of the American Indian and the US Custom House at Bowling Green; Trinity Church, the first parish church in New York City and the resting place of Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton, among others; War Of 1812 strong hold Castle Clinton; the Staten Island-bound South Ferry; Battery Park; and the Federal Reserve Bank. Sadly, the biggest attraction since 9/11 has been the former World Trade Center site, although, thankfully, construction has finally filled the long-standing gouge in Lower Manhattan's face, and the stunning 9/11 Memorial and its attendant museum are welcome signs of a healing city. And, of course, soaring a symbolic 1,776 feet over the memorial is the new 1 World Trade Center!
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