Located at the southern tip of Manhattan in Battery Park, Castle Clinton National Monument has had four significant yet diverse periods of operation. The building originally served as the West Battery, one of four fortifications built to defend New York Harbor for the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain.
The post-West Battery period includes the building's conversion into Castle Gardens, an entertainment and cultural facility (1823-1854); the Castle Garden immigration center (1855-1890) and the New York City Aquarium (1896-1941). After the aquarium closed, Castle Clinton was partially demolished by city parks commissioner Robert Moses, but was saved by public outcry and subsequently designated a national monument by President Truman in 1946. National monument designations are used to preserve significant places that are smaller than national parks and lacking diverse attractions.
Castle Clinton's remaining structure, was restored to its original fortress configuration by the National Park Service in 1975 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Castle Clinton collections show the diversity of its history. There is an emphasis on period illustration, with 19th century lithographs depicting the Castle Garden era and photographs documenting the aquarium.