Castle Williams is a part of the Governors Island National Monument and is one of the most unique structures on Governors Island. The Castle is a circular fort made of red sandstone and it was built between 1807 and 1811 under the direction of Colonel Jonathan Williams, then the Chief Engineer of the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Over the course of its history when the US Army was on Governors Island, it was used as a fortification to protect New York Harbor, a barracks for troops heading off to war, a prison for Confederate soldiers, and a military prison. During the Coast Guard era, it was remodeled into a youth community center with a nursery, meeting rooms for scouts and clubs, a woodworking shop, art studio, photography lab and a museum.
One of the most outstanding aspects of the Castle is the view from its roof. From that vantage point, visitors can not only enjoy the incredible vista of the Harbor and the skyline, but they can appreciate and understand the meaning and significance of Governors Island’s strategic location in the Harbor and its role in the nation’s history. Over the past several years, while visitors have been able to walk into the interior courtyard of the Castle, they could not access the interior or the roof. This is about to change, however.
The National Park Service on Governors Island has received funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to abate hazardous materials, remove health and safety hazards, and repair the Castle. This work is just beginning and will continue over the next year.
Once this work is completed next year, it will allow visitors access to the Castle to experience Governors Island’s history in entirely new and exciting ways.