Historic Watch Tower Restored To Original Glory In Harlem

Harlem Watch Tower
Photo credit Steve Burns/WCBS 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Harlem residents on Saturday gathered in a local park to celebrate the restoration of a landmark in the neighborhood.

In New York’s early days, before fire alarms or even poll boxes, volunteers would perch themselves high above the city in watch towers and ring a bell at the first sign of smoke.

New York City had about 11 towers throughout the boroughs at one point but in 2019, only one remains, as WCBS 880’s Steve Burns reports.

“It’s the last watch tower in New York,” said Syderia Asberry-Chresfield, with the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association.

The 47-foot cast-iron tower in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park is a reminder of what life was like before modern technology.

The watch tower was built in the 1850s but over the years, it fell into disrepair, according to Asberry-Chresfield.

The tower was brought down in 2015, but the city promising it would rise again, fully restored.

Four years later, that day has come.

“Oh my goodness. The tower is absolutely beautiful now. They've restored it to its original color and its original state,” Asberry-Chresfield said.

The overall effort to restore the tower cost about $8 million, which was funded by a number of grants.

“It's something that we know would be around for generations to come, as it was for generations before us,” she says of the restoration.

The watchtower was named a New York City landmark in the 1960s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places about a decade later.

The tower has yet to open for tours, but the Marcus Garvey Parks Alliance is hoping to change that in the future.