High Bridge (New York City)
from Highbridge Park (2008)
|Locale||Manhattan and the Bronx, in New York City|
|Maintained by||New York City Department of Parks and Recreation|
|Clearance above||102 ft (31 m)|
|Opened||1848 (rebuilt 1927)|
The High Bridge (officially, the Aqueduct Bridge) is a steel arch bridge, with a height of almost 140 feet (40 m) over the Harlem River, connecting the New York City boroughs of the Bronx and Manhattan. The eastern end is located in the Bronx near the western end of West 170th Street, and the western end is located in Highbridge Park in Manhattan, roughly parallel to the end of West 173rd Street.
Completed in 1848, it is now the oldest bridge in New York City—although the steel arch that actually spans the Harlem River dates from a 1928 renovation. The bridge has been closed to all traffic since the 1970s, with plans for a reopening by early 2015.
The bridge is operated and maintained by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
Construction and history
Originally designed as a stone arch bridge, the High Bridge had the appearance of a Roman aqueduct. Construction on the bridge was started in 1837, and completed in 1848 as part of the Croton Aqueduct, which carried water from the Croton River to supply the then burgeoning city of New York some 10 miles (16 km) to the south. It has a length of well over 2,000 feet (600 m). It was designed by the aqueduct's engineering team, led by John B. Jervis. James Renwick, Jr., who later went on to design New York's landmark Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, participated in the design.
The Croton Aqueduct had to cross the Harlem River at some point, and the method was a major design decision. A tunnel under the river was considered, but tunneling technology was in its infancy at the time, and the uncertainty of pursuing this option led to its rejection. This left a bridge, with the Water Commission, engineers and the public split between a low bridge and a high bridge. A low bridge would have been simpler, faster, and cheaper to construct. When concerns were raised to the New York Legislature that a low bridge would obstruct passage along the Harlem River to the Hudson River, a high bridge was ultimately chosen.
In 1928, in order to improve navigation in the Harlem River, the five masonry arches that spanned the river were demolished and replaced with a single steel arch of about 450 feet (140 m). Of the masonry arches of the original 1848 bridge, only one survives on the Manhattan side, while some ten survive on the Bronx side.
In the 1950s, pedestrians threw objects from the bridge that wounded passengers on a tour boat, and the bridge was closed.
The High Bridge was part of the first reliable and plentiful water supply system in New York City. As the City was devastated by cholera (1832) and the Great Fire in 1835, the inadequacy of the water system of wells-and-cisterns became apparent. Numerous corrective measures were examined. In the final analysis only the Croton River, located in northern Westchester County was found to be sufficient in quantity and quality to serve the needs of the City. The delivery system was begun in 1837, and was completed in 1848.
The Old Croton Aqueduct was the first of its kind ever constructed in the United States. The innovative system used a classic gravity feed, dropping 13 inches (330 mm) per mile and running 41 miles (66 km) into New York City through an enclosed masonry structure crossing ridges, valleys, and rivers. University Avenue was later built over the southernmost mainland portion of the aqueduct, leading to the bridge. The High Bridge soars 138 feet (42 m) above the 620-foot (190 m)-wide Harlem River, with a total length of 1,450 feet (440 m). The bridge was designed with a pedestrian walkway atop the Aqueduct and was not used for vehicular traffic. Though the carrying capacity was enlarged in 1861-62 with a larger tube, the bridge, obsolete due to opening of the New Croton Aqueduct, ceased to carry water in 1917. In the 1920s the bridge's masonry arches were declared a hazard to ship navigation by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the City considered demolishing the entire structure. Local organizations called to preserve the historic bridge, and in 1927 five of the original arches across the river were replaced by a single steel span, the remaining arches were retained.
In November 2006 it was announced that the bridge would reopen to pedestrians in 2009 (later postponed to 2013) after a $20 million renovation project. With the renovation, the arch will be stronger, staircases will be improved, cameras will be placed on both ends of the bridge, and boat beacon lights will be added, among other features. On January 11, 2013, the mayor's office announced the bridge would reopen for pedestrian traffic by 2014. In August 2014 it was announced that the Bridge would not open until the Spring of 2015.
In 2009 preliminary planning, funded by plaNYC, began for restoring the High Bridge. The High Bridge Coalition is raising funds and public awareness to restore High Bridge to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, joining the Highbridge Parks in both Manhattan and the Bronx that together cover more than 120 acres (0.49 km2) of parkland, and providing a link in New York's greenway system. In early 2010 a contract was signed with Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers and Chu & Gassman Consulting Engineers (MEP sub-consultant) to provide designs for the restored bridge.
High Bridge Water Tower
The High Bridge Water Tower, in Highbridge Park between West 173rd and 174th Streets, on top of the ridge on the Manhattan side of High Bridge, was built in 1866-72 to help meet the ever-increasing demands on the city's water system. The 200-foot (61 m) octagonal tower, which was authorized by the State Legislature in 1863, was designed by John B. Jervis, the engineer who supervised the building of the High Bridge Aqueduct. Water was pumped up 100 feet (30 m) to a 7-acre (2.8 ha) reservoir next to the tower – now the site of a play center and public pool built in 1934-36 – which then provided water to be lifted to the tower's 47,000 US gallons (180 m3) tank. This "high service" improved the water system's gravity pressure, necessary because of the increased use of flush toilets.
The High Bridge system reached its full capacity by 1875. With the opening of the Croton Aqueduct, the High Bridge system became less relied upon; during World War I it was completely shut down when sabotage was feared. In 1949 the tower was removed from service, and a carillon, donated by the Altman Foundation, was installed in 1958.
The tower's cupola was damaged by an arson fire in 1984. It was reconstructed, and the tower's load-bearing exterior stonework – which Jervis designed in a mixture of Romanesque Revival and neo-Grec styles – was cleaned and restored in 1989-90 by the William A. Hall Partnership. Christopher Gray has said of the tower's design that "Its rock-faced granite gives the tower a chunky, fortified appearance, as if it were a lookout for a much larger castle complex that was never built.... The granite is competently handled, but the details are not very inspired or elegant. The tower is more picturesque than beautiful."
The interior of the tower, which was never open to the public, features a wide well-detailed iron spiral staircase with six large landings and paired windows.
- List of bridges documented by the Historic American Engineering Record in New York
- Highbridge Park
- Highbridge Reservoir
- "NYC to Restore the High Bridge Over Harlem River"
- "An Engineering Marvel". Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
- "Croton Water Supply System". ASCE Metropolitan Section. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- "High Bridge PlaNYC Project Overview". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
- Hughes, C. J. (May 20, 2007). "Living In: High Bridge, the Bronx - Home of the Bronx Roar". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-20.
- Clarke, Erin (August 28, 2014). "High Bridge's Reopening Slated for Spring". NY1. Retrieved 2014-12-05.
- "The High Bridge & Highbridge Parks" (PDF). High Bridge Coalition. 2005. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
- Aaron, Brad (February 11, 2010). "High Bridge Restoration Off and Running". Streetsblog New York City. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
- New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Postal, Matthew A. (ed. and text); Dolkart, Andrew S. (text). (2009) Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.) New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p.210
- White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot with Leadon, Fran (2010). AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195383867., p.566
- Gray, Christopher (October 9, 1988). "Streetscapes: The High Bridge Water Tower; Fire-Damaged Landmark To Get $900,000 Repairs". The New York Times.
- Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct
- New York City Department of Parks: High Bridge
- High Bridge Park Development Association
- NYCRoads.com: High Bridge (Aqueduct Bridge)
- 2004 article about restoration plans
- High Bridge Documentary produced by The City Concealed
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. NY-119, "Old Croton Aqueduct, Harlem River Crossing"