Landmark Lectures 2019 ~ The Preservation of Cast Iron Construction




The Gilsey House on 29th and Broadway, was a former grand hotel built in 1867,a residential cast-iron building, It is an eight-story co-op building with 40 units. It was designated an official NYC landmark in 1979. Image credit: stereoscopic c.1900, + NYPL Digital Library

The Landmark Lectures 2019 Series by The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York will host a discussion entitled “The Preservation of Cast Iron Construction” with Christopher P. Pinto, Associate Principal, Thornton Tomasetti. Included in the discussion, the historic Harlem Fire Watchtower in Marcus Garvey Park, a project that is nearing completion.

Harlem Fire Watchtower. Image via Library of Congress.The Harlem Fire Watchtower is constructed of cast iron, and designated a City Landmark in 1967. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1994)

Christopher P. Pinto, who has considerable experience in structural analysis and design, with a specialization in investigative projects in restoration of historic structures, has worked on such notable projects as the cast iron dome of the U.S. Capital Building in Washington, D.C. and the Harlem Watchtower, images in this post.

image by library of congress. the historic Harlem Fire Watchtower, the only surviving of the eleven originally built and put into use in the 1850s.

The Harlem Fire Watchtower, built between 1855-1857, is the only survivor of the eleven cast-iron watchtowers placed throughout New York City in the 1850s. A grass-roots effort by residents and preservationists pulled together to restore the historic structure, which was deteriorating due to age, weather and neglect. The restoration is complete, and the Watchtower is in the process of being returned to the Acropolis in Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem. The anticipated unveiling will be Fall, 2019.

According to the Victorian Society in America, New York City has the world’s largest collection of buildings with cast-iron fronts ~ and many have been designated. Here, the Society states, “New York City has the world’s largest collection of buildings with cast-iron fronts. Many of these buildings have already been designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, either as individual landmarks or within historic districts.”

E.V. Haughwout Building, 488-492 Broadway, New York City. Image via

“Some, such as the masterful Haughwout Building on the northeast corner of Broadway and Broome Street, and Cary Building, with facades on Chambers and Reade Streets at Church Street, are individual landmarks, while many others are located within the boundaries of historic districts.”

The Cary Building at 105-107 Chambers Street, extending along Church Street to Reade Street in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, was built in 1856-1857 and was designed by King & Kellum in the Italian Renaissance revival style, with the cast-iron facade provided by Daniel D. Badger’s Architectural Iron Work. It was built for Cary, Howard & Sanger, which was a dry goods merchant. It was designated a NYC landmark in 1982 and is a National Historic Landmark. (Source: Guide to NYC Landmarks (4th ed.)) Image via

“The SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, designated in 1973, includes dozens of cast-iron facades and was an early recognition of the importance of cast iron.”

Cast Iron buildings on Grand Street between Lafayette Street and Broadway. Image via

“Other cast-iron fronts are located within the various Tribeca historic districts (notably in the Tribeca West Historic District, in the NoHo Historic District, in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, and in other local districts.”

No where is the preservation of cast iron construction more visible in NYC than in the SoHo Cash Iron Historic District. In an ode to this designation, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation put it this way, “They have given it a new life, making feasible the preservation of an irreplaceable part of our cultural heritage.”

March 2018 ~ getting ready for the return of the historic Harlem Fire Watchtower after a two-year restoration project

The Preservation of Cast Iron Construction, by The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen will take place on Tuesday, June 18th from 6:30 to 8pm located at The General Society Library, 20 West 44th Street, NYC. Tickets available online from $-$15. Reception to follow.

April 2015 ~ April 2015 ~ Removal of the bell inside the cast-iron Harlem Fire Watchtower

This is the last of the Lecture Series, however you can view what you missed at the complete Landmark Series schedule, here.

April 2015 ~ Removal of the bell inside the cast-iron Harlem Fire Watchtower

This program is supported in part by public funds from the New York Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. The General Society Landmark Lectures are presented in partnership with the New York Landmarks Conservancy