Harlem Fire Watchtower

New York City, United States

Harlem Fire Watchtower

The Harlem Fire Watchtower, also known as the Mount Morris Fire Watchtower, is the only surviving one of eleven cast-iron watchtowers placed throughout New York City starting in the 1850s. Standing at 47 feet (14 m) tall, it was built by Julius H. Kroehl for $2,300 based on a design by James Bogardus. It is located in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, Manhattan.

The Mount Morris Park tower went into service in 1857 in response to Harlem residents’ demand. The towers gave volunteers a perch from which to watch for fires that were common in the wooden structures that then made up much of New York City, and the watchers then spread the word via bell ringing. Later, electric telegraphs were installed but the bell provided local alarms. When pull boxes and other technological advances rendered the fire watchtowers obsolete, the system was discontinued and the other towers eventually were destroyed. Harlem's, protected in the middle of a park, endured.

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