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Visit Castle Williams
In its day this historic fort held 100 cannons pointed in almost every direction to protect New York.
Found on the northwest corner of the island, Castle Williams was the jewel in the defensive crown set up on Governors Island to protect New York from attack during the War of 1812. The circular red sandstone defense was finished in 1811, a cousin to the better-known Castle Clinton at Battery Park just across the channel. The eight-foot-thick walls of the “castle” were arranged in a circular arch so that the 100 cannons installed within could fire in just about every direction.
The defense was fearsome enough that never even had to be tested. The British never attacked New York during the War of 1812. The fort remained and acted as a Union barracks and jail during the Civil War, before being converted to a full military prison later on. The castle operated as a prison of some sort until 1965, when the aging structure was finally decommissioned.
Today Castle Williams is restored and protected as a historical landmark on Governors Island. During the summer months, the castle can be toured with the help of a guide who will walk visitors through the many lives of the historic fort.