Youle’s Shot Tower – ‘City Full of History’ Episode 9

Last time on “City Full of History”, we paid a visit to Frederick Catherwood’s Panorama!  Come along now as we climb George Youle’s Shot Tower and dive into the unique process for manufacturing lead shot in Old New York!

If you head to the block between 53rd and 54th Streets overlooking the East River, you’ll find a charming little sliver of a park.  Behind it stands two high-rise apartment complexes, but if you were here in 1823 you would be looking at one of the most interesting manufacturing centers in New York City: the shot tower belonging to George Youle.

Brevoort Estate-Youle Shot Tower-Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York-1866-Manhattan-New York City-Bookworm History-City Full of History-Daniel Thurber
The Brevoort Estate with Youle’s Shot Tower. From ‘Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York – 1866’

Manufacturing lead shot, primarily used in ammunition, was even then a fairly simple process, but it did require the construction of a tower built especially for that purpose.  In 1821 metal merchant and inventor George Youle decided to get into the manufacturing side of things and began construction of such a tower on his farm, about 4 miles north of New York City.

Youle Shot Tower-George Youle-East River-Manhattan-New York City-Bookworm History-City Full of History-Daniel Thurber
Youle Shot Tower – Image from NYPL

Youle’s tower was notable for several reasons.  Designed by renowned New York architect John McComb, Jr, it was both the first and last shot tower standing on Manhattan.  A prominent landmark to those travelling on the Eastern Post Road, it even found its way into the paintings of Jasper Cropsey and Frederic Church.

Youle's Shot Tower, East River New York-Frederic Church-1845-Manhattan-New York City-Bookworm History-City Full of History-Daniel Thurber
‘Youle’s Shot Tower, East River New York’ by Frederic Church (1844-1845) – Image from The Athenaeum

 

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