7. The Harlem Fire Watchtower is the only cast-iron watchtower left in New York City
Inside Marcus Garvey Park is the Harlem Fire Watchtower — also known as the Mount Morris Fire Watchtower — the only surviving cast-iron watchtower left in New York City. Completed in 1857, the watchtower was used by volunteer residents to watch for fires, which were common given the area’s wooden structures. At first, watchers spread the word about an impending fire by ringing a bell before switching to electric telegraphs. Eventually, following the invention of pull boxes, fire towers were rendered obsolete, and most across the city were discontinued, though Harlem’s would persist due to its enclosed location within the park.
During the New Deal era, as part of the Works Project Administration jobs program, the area surrounding the watchtower was rebuilt, leading to the creation of a gracious plaza, stone retaining wall, and wide steps approaching the park’s summit. In 1967, the tower would be named a city landmark, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Over the years, weather, lack of maintenance, and neglect took their toll on the tower’s structure. To fix this, the tower was disassembled and reconstructed to ensure its stability and reopened to the public in December 2019.