9. The Parks Department Added an Electric Carillon

1978 photo of the Highbridge Water Tower
Aerial View Towards the Bronx, 1978. Image via: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

After the Highbridge Water Tower was placed under Parks jurisdiction, the agency teamed up with the Benjamin Altman Foundation to install an electric carillon. This was a device imitating the sound of bells, allowing a building often compared to a medieval campanile to function like one. It debuted on Memorial Day 1958 with a 15-minute performance broadcast on WNYC radio.

The Altman Memorial Carillon, as it was called officially, chimed thrice daily on weekdays and twice a day on weekends for several minutes from speakers mounted in the old tank room. As Gay Talese of the New York Times observed in 1961, it “has served as a combination concert hall and alarm clock with such fidelity that many residents have let it run their lives.”

How long the five-octave carillon continued to operate is unclear. Periodically there has been talk of replacing it, but when members of the Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee of  Manhattan Community Board 12 voted on capital project priorities in 2019, there was no support for this.