Marcus Garvey Park
Marcus Garvey Park, or Mount Morris Park as it was originally called and still referred to by some people in the neighborhood, is located in Harlem in the New York City borough of Manhattan. The 20.17-acre (81,630 m2) park, centered on a massive and steep outcropping of schist and surrounded by flat lawns and playing fields, interrupts the flow of Fifth Avenue traffic, which is routed around the park via Mount Morris Park West. The park is bounded by 120th Street and 124th Street and by Madison Avenue on its east side. The park is operated and maintained by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
Before the arrival of Europeans, the rocky hill was used by Native Americans as a lookout station to see over the entire island. Dutch settlers called it Slang Berg, or Snake Hill.
Opened to the public in 1840 and originally named Mount Morris Park, Marcus Garvey Park is still part of the Mount Morris Park Historic District. In 1973 the park was renamed for Marcus Garvey. The name change did not arise from a grass-roots movement in the community, but rather, it was political maneuvering by Mayor John Lindsay to ingratiate himself with the communities of upper Manhattan. The name has changed on maps, but some of the people in the neighborhood still call it Mount Morris Park. The new name for the park honored Garvey, a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, crusader for black nationalism, and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).
In the summer of 1969 the park was the site of the Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of concerts that came to be known as "Black Woodstock."
The Harlem Fire Watchtower was designed by Julius H. Kroehl and erected in 1855-57 of cast iron. The tower was fitted with a 10,000 pound bell cast by Jones & Hitchcock. The watchtower allowed observers to use the natural elevation of the park and the added height of the structure to search for fires, in an era when most buildings were made of wood. The 47-foot (14 m) cast-iron tower is the only one to survive of eleven that had been constructed in the city, and was designated as a landmark in 1967. The watchtower, still bearing its bell, is located at the center of the park on an artificial plateau called The Acropolis.
Facilities in the park include the Pelham Fritz Recreation Center and an Amphitheater (both located on the west side of the park at 122nd Street), and Swimming Pool (on the north side of the park), and two playgrounds designed for infants and disabled children, which were built in 1993. A Little League baseball field occupies the southwest corner of the park. A dog run with wood chip footing is located on the southeast corner of the park.
Much of the rusticated stonework stairs and walling has been patched with concrete; capstones have been dislodged by vandals. Sections of the upper part are closed off with chainlink fencing.
The park closes at 10 pm; the isolated upper section closes at dusk.
- Centered on Fifth Avenue on the south perimeter of the park stand wrought iron gates bearing the medallion "MB".