[Update 8/28/13: The Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation announced that they have raised the $4 million necessary to restore Harlem’s Mount Morris Fire Watchtower in Marcus Garvey Memorial]
A little park with a lot to say is the best way to describe Marcus Garvey Park. A very “Untapped” location within the park is the Acropolis, the highest point. Originally constructed as a fire watchtower when constructed in 1857, it rises seventy feet above the surrounding streets. This particular fire watchtower is the only one left standing of the 13 that once were scattered around Manhattan, and remained active until fire alarm boxes were installed in 1878. Over time, this cast-iron structure with its 10,000 pound bell, has deteriorated and a massive grassroots effort to restore it is underway spearheaded by The Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association (MMPCIA). Climbing the steps up to the Acropolis in Marcus Garvey Park and standing next to the historic fire watchtower with its panoramic view, it’s easy to embrace the efforts to save it.
Marcus Garvey Park sits between 120th Street and 124th Street just east of Lenox Avenue and is part of the Mount Morris Park Historic District designated in 1971. It is a park surrounded by churches, townhouses, apartment buildings, condos, a gallery and even a convent.
At the base of the Acropolis is the Pelham Fritz Community Center with an indoor/outdoor swimming pool and the newly designed Richard Rodgers Amphitheater that reopened in 2011 and hosts the annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, Summerstage, JazzMobile, The Harlem Arts Festival and more!
I can’t write about this park without mentioning their annual neighborhood House Tour every June. Beginning in the park, you can either take the self-guided tour or go with one of the local historians on a guided tour. This is by far my favorite house tour in the City.
Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church, which sits on the west side of the park at 122nd Street dates back to 1905. It is the home of The Head Start Program and many other community activities, and is a great place to hear music. Bethel Gospel Assembly has been on the 120th Street side of the park since 1984, alongside one of the newer buildings, the towering 28 story condominium 5th On The Park, and The Heath Gallery which resides in one of the beautiful townhouses that surround the park.
Marcus Garvey Park is a true microcosm of the community. There are often softball games going on alongside free musical events in the Ampitheater. On a Saturday you can sit and enjoy the sounds of the African Drummers, who have been playing in the park since 1969. You can pick up a picnic lunch from one of the local eateries and simply enjoy the day.
Here you will find the young and the old, those born in Harlem and transplants alike, coming together in Marcus Garvey Park.