Harlem’s Mount Morris Park fire watchtower

One was at Ninth Avenue and 33rd Street. Another stood on Spring Street. In all, fire-prone 19th-century New York City was dotted with 11 fire watchtowers.

MtmorrisparktowerMade of cast iron, each tower contained a huge bell that a guard, positioned there at all hours, would ring whenever flames were spotted nearby.

The only fire watchtower still standing is in Mount Morris Park—aka Marcus Garvey Park. This unusual structure sits high on a hill known to Dutch colonists as “Slangberg,” or Snake Hill, in Harlem’s East 120s.

Completed in 1857, the watchtower was only used for a couple of decades, replaced by telegraph alarms.

But the cool old bell still rang regularly until 1905; residents asked the city to strike it twice a day to let locals know the time.

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4 Responses to “Harlem’s Mount Morris Park fire watchtower”

  1. Cast Ye not Pearls Says:

    I believe this was manufactured by the Badger Co, a famous foundry that made many of the cast-iron facades downtown and produced the Badger Catalog, the encyclopedia of cast-iron production. Preservationist Margot Gayle mentions this fire tower in one of her books on cast-iron architecture.

    So, that give it even more esteem.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks. The photo doesn’t do it justice–it’s a very unusual structure. And the bell is pretty neat on its own.

  3. Connie Lee Says:

    An awareness and fundraising campaign to restore the tower is in full spring. https://www.facebook.com/HarlemFireWatchtower

  4. The view from the last shot tower in Manhattan | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Trinity Church’s spire dominated the skies above Manhattan, with other church steeples and fire watchtowers aiming toward the heavens as […]

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