Marcus Garvey Park

NY - NYC - Marcus Garvey Park - Sarah Michele Richmond - 2008 -3.jpg
New York, NY
United States
Marcus Garvey Park

Located in East Harlem, this 20-acre park interrupts Fifth Avenue between 120th and 124th streets. The parcel’s 70-foot high schist outcropping, dubbed “Mount Morris,” prohibited the development of gridded streets, so it was set aside as one of Manhattan’s earliest public squares in 1835. In 1856 a cast-iron fire watchtower was erected atop Mount Morris, which still stands today. Between 1867 and 1870, Ignatz Pilat landscaped the square in a naturalistic manner, with curving paths leading uphill to a concourse offering panoramic views. Pilat graded and seeded the 14-acre plain surrounding the crag and planted informal stands of deciduous trees. He also arranged formal octagonal and circular bosques in the corners of the square and bordered it with a wooden fence and a row of deciduous trees.

Robert Moses revitalized the park in the 1930s, overlaying Pilat’s plan with a formal, classical design. He installed masonry walls, set paved walks with stairs and terraces, and redesigned the flagstone acropolis in a neoclassical fashion. He added two playgrounds to the north, while a tree-lined play yard replaced the octagonal bosque. An elliptical lawn and a linden allée were laid in the northeast quadrant, with a baseball field built in the southwest. A swimming pool, recreation center, and an amphitheater were constructed between 1969 and 1971. Mount Morris Park was renamed in honor of the African-American community leader Marcus Garvey in 1973. Only the fire watchtower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, designated in 1976.