New York City isn't just a city of skyscrapers, brownstones and industrial complexes. Scattered throughout all five boroughs you'll find forts and castles from another lifetime. Some were constructed to protect the great New York Harbor from enemy attacks. Others were built as miniature fortresses for the police patrolling on horseback when Brooklyn still stood as its own city. And a few are just for fun.
Battery Weed was constructed between 1847 and 1862 on the coast of Staten Island to protect the Narrows from invaders. It's part of Fort Wadsworth, one of the oldest military installations in the country. This was an active military base until 1994. It's now managed by the National Park Service.
Look under Lady Liberty and you'll see Fort Wood, an eleven-point star-shaped battery completed in 1811. In 1866, it became home to the Statue of Liberty.
Fort Schuyler was built in the 1830s in Throgs Neck to protect New York City from attacks by sea in the Long Island Sound. Today it houses a Maritime Industry Museum and SUNY Maritime College offices.
Fort Totten was built in 1857 in northeast Queens, where the East River opens into the Long Island Sound. It was intended to work with Fort Schuyler in the Bronx to protect the city from a northern attack. Until its closure in 1995, it was used mainly as an Army training base. It's now a 60-acre city park. (Yes, you can explore the fort!)
Fort Totten Officers' Club
This Gothic Revival-style castle was built in 1887 and used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as their officers' club. Since 1984 it's been home to the Bayside Historical Society. It's open to the public.
Castle Williams was built on Governors Island between 1807 and 1811 to help protect New York Harbor. Its location was strategic during the War of 1812 and useful for training and recruitment during the Civil War. It eventually served as a prison for Confederate POWs. It operated as a military prison until 1965, just before the Army left Governors Island. When the Coast Guard took over the island, Castle Williams served as a community center. It's now managed by the National Parks Service.
Castle Clinton, at the southern tip of Manhattan, has a long, varied history. It was built just before the War of 1812, intended to protect New York from a British invasion. In the 1820s, the fort became home to a restaurant and theater. In the second half of the 19th century, the facility operated as an immigration landing depot. Eight million people entered the United States through what was then known as Castle Garden. In 1896, the building was remodeled and housed the New York City Aquarium until it moved to Coney Island in 1914. The building was saved from demolition and restored to its original design by the National Park Service. It reopened as Castle Clinton National Monument. Today, this is where you can purchase a ticket to visit the Statue of Liberty.
Fort Hamilton was constructed between 1825 and 1831 on the shore of Brooklyn to help protect the Narrows. Today, it's the only active military base in New York City.
Staten Island Armory
The Staten Island Armory, at 321 Manor Rd., was constructed in 1926. Today it houses a tactical unit of the 42nd Infantry "Rainbow" Division.
23rd Regiment Armory
The 23rd Regiment Armory in Crown Heights was constructed between 1891and 1895. Today, it houses a men's homeless shelter.
Kingsbridge Armory (Eighth Regiment Armory)
The Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx may be the largest armory in the world. It was built between 1912 and 1917. Over the years, it was used not only by the military but also for film shoots, boxing matches and, in part, as a homeless shelter. It was turned over to the city in 1996. Plans to turn the armory into an ice center with nine rinks was approved in late 2013.
69th Regiment Armory
The 69th Regiment Armory, at 68 Lexington Ave., was completed in 1906. The site hosted the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art, the first major exhibit of modern art in America. It's still the headquarters of the 69th Infantry Regiment, part of the New York Army National Guard. The armory was the site of many recent Victoria's Secret Fashion Shows.
88th Precinct Building
This Romanesque Revival building was built on Classon Avenue in 1890. It was designed by George Ingram, who used a similar castle motif on other city precinct houses. It originally housed Brooklyn’s Fourth Precinct, but today is home to the 88th.
83rd Precinct Police Station
Another Romanesque Revival-style police house in Brooklyn, this Bushwick fortress and stable housed the 20th Precinct when it opened in 1895. The 83rd was based here at 179 Wilson Ave. until the 1990s. Today it's headquarters for the Brooklyn North Task Force.
23rd Police Precinct ("Tenderloin") Station House
The 23rd Police Precinct Station House, located on the south side of West 30th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, was constructed in 1907-08. The "Tenderloin" nickname refers to the neighborhood's reputation as a red-light district in the early 1900s. It's now home to New York City's Traffic Control Division.
Belvedere Castle in Central Park was erected in 1869, providing a whimsical spot for the highest views of the Great Lawn, Turtle Pond and Delacorte Theater. The castle has been used by the National Weather Service since 1919 as the site to determine weather measurements in Central Park. It suffered from disrepair over the years, but was renovated and reopened by the Central Park Conservancy in 1983.
Fonthill Castle, a Gothic Revival building in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, was completed in 1852 for Shakespearean actor Edwin Forrest. After a bitter divorce, Forrest sold the home to the Order of the Sisters of Charity. Today it houses the offices of Admissions and Financial Aid for the College of Mount Saint Vincent.
Litchfield Villa was built in 1857 as a residence for the Litchfield family in what we now know as Prospect Park. Today the building houses the Brooklyn headquarters of the Parks Department and the offices of the Prospect Park Alliance.
Connie Gretz Secret Garden
The Connie Gretz Secret Garden was built in the 1990s by a grieving husband. Located in the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island, the castle, maze and garden are named after Randy Gretz's late wife and inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Secret Garden." It's open for children to explore.