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Immigration Archives - The Battery - A Place To While Away An Hour - New York's Battery Park

The best place in town to observe the activities of the Immigrants at Ellis Island.

The Battery: A Place To While Away An Hour. One of New York's Interesting Places. Well Worth a Trip of Exploration.

If you have an hour to spare in New York, the thing to do is visit the Battery.

There is no place like it in the world. Sunset or fog-blanketed harbor, water breeze of the dog days or blinding winter blizzard, lounging crowds or marching pageant of shipping, clear sky or cloudy, night or noon—something will cheer you and leave you the fresher for your stroll between the skyscrapers and the sea. The Battery will not bore you.

It is a place of odd and remarkable things. The building line curves and twists and goes off at curious angles. Some of the houses are old, slant-roofed and picturesque. Even the elevated railway has an interesting look as it crawls out of its dusky path among the buildings and uncoils itself southward, striking lazily at the ferry house with a fangless, harmless head.

There is a twenty story building at the Battery, and when they ran up a lean-to behind it they made it thirty stories for good measure.

There has been a Barge Office at the tip of Manhattan since the days of the Continental Congress, or thereabout. For many years passengers and baggage from incoming vessels were taken there in barges to be searched by the revenue men. The gray stone structure of today dates from 1882.

It is the point of departure for the customs men who go out to board incoming liners. Behind it is a pier where the cutters lie rubbing their noses on the granite sea wall. At the outer end the Ellis Island ferry lands, and from the iron gate in front half a million immigrants a year are first set free on American soil.

The present Barge Office is odd enough, with its stubby gray tower, more like a new church in a prosperous country town than a metropolitan office of the United States government. But the aquarium is odder still, not only is it one of the most picturesque buildings in the city, but the traditions of old New York cluster about it as thick as the Cyclopean masonry of its walls.

It was built—the same huge, brown, liver-shaped cheese that it is to-day on a shoal in the harbor, a good three hundred yards from the shore. At that time, in 1807, it was a masterpiece of fortification. The curved front toward the sea was fourteen feet thick, of solid masonry; the outer face slanted outward slightly, like the side of a milk pail, so that a plunging shot would be deflected, and not strike at a right angle.

Shoreward the two lobes of the liver swept in two curves toward the sheltered entrance, and they were made bombproof by doubling the thickness of the stone. There is hardly such a mass of cut stone anywhere else in the city, except, perhaps, in the piers of some of the East River bridges. The fort was named Castle Clinton.

In fifteen years it was out of date, and the federal government ceded it to the city in 1822. In 1824 Lafayette was received there. Later it was leased to private individuals, a stage was built, and it became the great auditorium of
America. It would seat 6,000 people, and it is said that as many as 10,000 have crowded into its walls. It was then called Castle Garden, which is still its proper name. Opera was sung there for years, first by the Havana Opera Company, in 1847. P. T. Barnum leased it and brought out Jenny Lind in a great concert on September 11, 1850.

In those days it was reached by a bridge from the mainland. All the land which is now Battery Park has been "made" since then by filling in. In 1855 it was taken by the government for a receiving station for immigrants, and it continued in this service for many years. In 1870 the interior was burned, although the masonry remained uninjured.

As an aquarium it is the most popular museum in the world. The Zoo in London has only 800,000 or 900,000 visitors yearly and The Bronx Zoo 1,E00,000. But the Aquarium is entered by nearly 4,000,000 persons every year; in 1909 the number was 3,800,000. It is to accommodate these vast crowds that an enlargement is planned.

Fall River Line Journal, Vol. XXXIV. New York, June 10, 1912. No. 12

 

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