About The Landmark
The Fire Watchtower within Marcus Garvey Park was constructed circa 1857, when cast iron towers gave firefighters a spot to look out for fires and ring bells to alert local fire companies. After pull boxes rendered the watchtowers obsolete, most were torn down, but in the 1870s neighbors successfully rallied to protect the tower.
Harlem residents worked again to prevent the watchtower’s demolition as part of a Robert Moses-era plan that flattened the tower’s hilltop location into a paved plaza. By the 1990’s the structure was near collapse and sustained community activism inspired the City to fund a major restoration. All elements were carefully labeled and crated away. Some historic components were repaired while others were replicated in cast iron. It was finally restored and returned to the park in 2019.
Rescued and celebrated, the tower is a rare example of early American cast iron frame construction, an early example of preservation advocacy, and a prized Harlem landmark.
Learn more about the historic watchtower, Marcus Garvey Park, and the surrounding historic district in our new video.
Plan Your Visit
Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem
For periodic tour information visit the City Parks website.
Restoration of the tower was made possible by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Allen Architectural Metals, AYON Studio, BAMA Foundry, Lucius Pitkin, Inc., Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers, Nicholson and Galloway, Northeast Structural Steel, Thornton Tomasetti, and Verdin Bell.