Changing with the Times
[ Side 1 ]
A Place Worth Protecting
The same waterways that connected New York City to the world made it vulnerable to naval attack.
During the Revolutionary War, a British maritime force captured New York. In the early days of independence that followed the war, the federal government constructed a series of forts in the harbor. Their job was to safeguard the port against future attacks. Castle Williams, built from 1807 to 1811, was one of them.
New York was never attacked. But the stone fort would serve the nation in changing ways.
[ Side 2 ]
A Show of Force
When it was completed in 1811, Castle Williams was the most visible example of force in New York Harbor. Together with two other fortifications on Governors Island - Fort Jay and South Battery - it helped to defend New York City against naval attack.
Over time, as the forts played less of a role in protecting the harbor and the city, an army post evolved around them. By the 1870s, Governors Island became a major U.S. Army headquarters and by 1930, it was home to over 3,000 soldiers, officers, and their families.
"Even Governors Island, once a smiling garden . . . was now covered with fortifications - so that this once-peaceful island resembled a fierce little warrior in a big cocked hat, breathing gunpowder and defiance to the world !"
- Author Washington Irving, Knickerbocker's History of New York, 1809