Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer announced a $1 million allocation that will complete the preservation of the historic Fire Watchtower in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park — the last such 19th century structure standing in New York City.
The Borough President’s allocation was the final financial piece needed to finish a restoration project that began in the early 1990s.
“Without the funding provided today and the restoration work to follow, we were in danger of losing a significant part of Harlem’s history,” the Borough President said, speaking at a press conference at the foot of the tower.
“I’m proud that a structure which had been abandoned and fenced off will once again become a beautiful and vibrant part of this public park. I’m also proud to have worked with the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance and the Mount Morris Community Improvement Association to have made this possible.”
The 47-foot, cast iron tower has been watching over Harlem since 1857 and was designed as a lookout post for fire volunteers, who would climb the stairs, look out for fires and ring a 10,000-pound bell in the event of a blaze.
Even as the fire department modernized, replacing towers with telegraphic alarms, the tower played a role in the community, with the bell sounding during the week and on Sundays for timekeeping and church purposes.
The $1 million provided by the Borough President — along with earlier contributions of $1.75 million from Councilmember Inez Dickens and $1.25 million from Mayor Bloomberg — will provide for the full restoration of the fire watchtower’s cast-iron frame, plus construction of a stainless steel support system.
The tower is a designated New York City landmark and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The Watch Tower is saved! I am pleased to have been able to work with my colleagues in government, including the Mayor’s Office, Borough President Stringer, and the Department of Parks, and neighborhood advocates like the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance and the Mount Morris Community Improvement Association to find the capital dollars to protect, and now enhance, this unique piece of Harlem’s history,” said Councilmember Inez Dickens.
“We have to protect Harlem’s treasures and the $1.75 Million that I allocated for the Marcus Garvey Park Harlem Watchtower will go a long way towards transforming this landmark to a destination location right here in Harlem.”
“Thanks to investments from Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Stringer and Council Member Dickens, we are delivering great news for the green spaces of Harlem,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White.
“The historic landmark Mount Morris Fire Watchtower at Marcus Garvey Park has stood for more than 150 years and thanks to this allocation of capital funds, it will remain for generations to come.”