The New York Times calls the High Bridge "the greatest public work in New York City’s history." Today that feat of 19th century engineering—the oldest existing bridge in the city—will reopen after more than 40 years of disuse.
When it first opened in 1848, the Bridge, which connected 173rd Street in the Bronx to 170th Street in Upper Manhattan, served as the final leg of a 40-mile journey south for clean water from upstate. The bridge was part of the Croton Aqueduct system designed by John Jervis. It relied on gravity and a carefully engineered track that dropped 13.25 inches every mile to transport usable water to Manhattan's upper stretches. From there, the water flowed into two reservoirs that made the 19th century expansion of the city possible.
In 1864, a pedestrian path was added to the beautiful 1,200-foot bridge, which stands 116 feet above the Harlem River and drew New Yorkers and tourists north for day trips and boat rides around what was then the country. When the the aqueduct was closed in 1958, the High Bridge remained opened under the jurisdiction of the city’s Parks Department. That lasted about a decade, until rising crime in neighborhoods on both sides of the bridge drove city officials to close it indefinitely.
About 20 years ago, 10-year-old Maaret Klaber gave a presentation to the local community board’s park committee requesting that the bike path along the Harlem shoreline be reopened. After editorials echoing her cry began appearing in papers around the city, a restoration project was launched. In the decades since, portions of the path have been cleared and reopened at various times. The High Bridge portion has been the most involved.
Three mayoral administrations (and $61.77 million) later, the project is complete, and the only exclusively pedestrian bridge connecting Manhattan to the mainland will open to the public today. To get a sense of what the walk will look like, check out this video shot back in 2009:
To find out more about visiting the High Bridge, click here.