Around Town

A Walk on the High Bridge

High Bridge and Water Tower

Many years ago, during one of the earliest Open House NY weekends, I traveled uptown to tour the High Bridge Water Tower. The views from the top of the Tower were wonderful and one thing I saw that caught my eye was the old High Bridge. The bridge had been closed for several decades and I had hoped the city would reopen it one day—and that day finally arrived last week.

High Bridge is the oldest in the city, dating back to 1848. It used to carry water from the Croton Aqueduct into the city; the design of the bridge was to mimic old Roman aqueducts and it must have looked grand in its heyday. About a third of the original stone arches were demolished (sigh) back in the 1920s so boats could navigate the Harlem River more easily so we’re left with clashing architectural features; I suppose it could have been worse and at least some of the stonework remain intact.

Stairs to bridge from Highbridge Park

I traveled to Highbridge Park on Saturday and then made my way to the stairs that lead down to the bridge. The descent is pretty steep with lots of steps and I was already dreading the climb back up when I was ready to leave. There is a slightly easier access via another road in the park but it went further south than I needed to be.

Manhattan side of High Bridge

Currently, a thank you sign greets visitors at the base of the stairs, and people have added their names and their thanks to all the organizations that have helped to reopen the bridge. From there, make a left and soon the bridge comes in sight. To be honest, the Manhattan side of the bridge itself isn’t much fun to look at; most of the original stone arches are located on Bronx side.

View of Harlem River north of High Bridge

View of Harlem River south of High Bridge

The day was really nice and the views up and down the Harlem River weren’t shabby. On the north side were views of more bridges while the south side offered glimpses of downtown and midtown skyscrapers depending on where one stood.

Brickwork

The bricks on the walkway have been replaced but the original layout was kept; I noticed that the design changed where I presumed was the midpoint of the bridge.

Plaque

Plaque detail

All along the walkway were metal plaques embedded into the brickwork. Each one showed a different facts about the bridge, such as when it opened and how it was constructed. Some of the illustrations on the plaques were really nice; I liked the scene depicting visitors who came to see the bridge on a day trip.

High Bridge Water Tower

I walked all the way to the Bronx side and admired the view from there, with the Water Tower dominating the landscape. It would have made sense to just take a subway from there downtown but the train I needed to take was back on the Manhattan side and I didn’t mind crossing the river again. And once I finally caught my breath after ascending those dreaded stairs, I snapped a parting shot of the Water Tower.