The High Bridge

 

The High Bridge, famed centerpiece of the Old Croton Aqueduct, carried Croton water across the Harlem River from the mainland to Manhattan in pipes still beneath its deck. A civic destination and public space and now New York City’s oldest bridge, it has never had vehicular traffic and never will.

 

HISTORY

 

Chief Aqueduct engineer John B. Jervis designed the bridge’s 15 masonry arches in the style of the great Roman aqueduct crossings. It was completed in 1848, six years after the Aqueduct opened. In the interim, water crossed the river through temporary, low-level pipes. The bridge quickly became a popular public promenade, thronged by visitors enjoying the views and a favorite subject for artists and photographers. Edgar Allen Poe liked to stroll on it [see article in our Newsletter]. Restaurants and beer gardens sprang up on both banks to serve the burgeoning tourist trade.

In 1927-28, five arches were replaced by today’s single steel arch after public protests defeated a proposal to remove the bridge entirely as a hazard to navigation. The bridge is now a designated New York City landmark and, as part of the Old Croton Aqueduct, shares the Aqueduct’s National Historic Landmark designation. It connects the two parks - both named Highbridge Park - at either end, as well as the Highbridge neighborhood of the Bronx and Washington Heights in Manhattan. Beautiful High Bridge Tower (1872) rises above the bridge’s Manhattan terminus.

 

RESTORATION

 

The restored High Bridge was opened to the public in 2015, after a long restoration process in which the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct were involved.

After being closed for 45 years, the Old Croton Aqueduct’s High Bridge, now renovated, is open to the public. The bridge is part of New York City’s park system, administered by the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation. It is accessible to all, including visitors using wheelchairs, bikes, and strollers.

 

VISIT

After being closed for 45 years, the Old Croton Aqueduct’s High Bridge, now renovated, is open to the public. The bridge is part of New York City’s park system, administered by the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation. It is accessible to all, including visitors using wheelchairs, bikes, and strollers. Following are directions for getting onto the bridge from both the Bronx and Manhattan ends. At present the bridge is open from 7 am to 7 pm.

Following are directions for getting onto the bridge from both the Bronx and Manhattan ends. At present the bridge is open from 7 am to 7 pm.

 

BRONX

Entry to the bridge is at street level from Bronx Highbridge Park, located at W. 170th St. and University Ave. (Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) and nearby streets. The Aqueduct lies beneath this small park. By subway: The park is uphill from the 170th St. stop on the no. 4 line; the 170th St. stop on the B/D line is a little further away. By car: The park is adjacent to 1381 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. (feature 22 on the Friends’ map of the Aqueduct in New York City). Parking is difficult.

MANHATTAN

Entry to the bridge is partway down a hillside in Manhattan Highbridge Park.

  1. Stairway - At W. 172nd St. and Amsterdam Ave., follow the paved path past a playground to the 98-step stairway next to High Bridge Tower (closed for repairs). The bottom of the stairs is at the entry to the bridge. The 168th St. stations on the No. 1 and A/C subway lines are in convenient walking distance (about 10 minutes).
  2. Paved path - From W. 167th St. and Edgecombe Ave. (one block east of Amsterdam Ave.), follow the rampway down, cross the playground, and turn left onto the paved path to the bridge, about a half-mile (about a 10 min. walk). This path is on the line of the Aqueduct. For those not using wheeled means, a pleasant alternative is to take the same path from its beginning (see plaque set in paving) at W. 165th St. and Edgecombe Ave.; a sign at the sidewalk says Adventure Playground. Subway information: same as for stairway directions above.

NOTE: The north-south distances along Amsterdam and Edgecombe avenues, which form the edge of Highbridge Park near the High Bridge, are much shorter than in midtown. A walk between 173rd (Highbridge Recreation Center) and 165th streets, for example, takes only about 10 minutes.

WESTCHESTER

  1. By Metro-North: Metro-North to Marble Hill, then walk a half-block to the 225th St. elevated station of the No. 1 line (southbound). Take subway to 168th street station, then walk east to High Bridge Park. For stairway, walk north to 172nd street entrance. For paved path, walk south to 167th street entrance.
  2. By car: Parking is difficult but not impossible, and there are several commercial parking lots. Finding street space may be easier on weekends than weekdays.

Current or upcoming events at this location

Saturday, February 9, 2019 - 10:00am

Meet at the Highbridge Recreation Center on Amsterdam Ave. at 173 Street in Manhattan, a short walk from #1 (Note: 168th St. #1 Stn is  closed.) and A subway stations. Washington Heights near the High Bridge deserves more attention, especially now that the gleaming bridge beckons day-trippers once more. Let’s take a long walk that starts by crossing the Harlem River via the High Bridge. You will hear the tale of the Old Croton Aqueduct then wind back to the gorgeous Jumel Terrace Historic District, Trinity Cemetery (resting place of Ed Koch and John James Audubon), and to hidden Audubon Terrace. Along the way we pay homage to Paul Robeson, jazz greats like Lena Horne, the indomitable Eliza Jumel and to NY baseball. Be prepared for many stairs and up to 4 hours of hilly walking (4.5 miles). (Metro North Hudson Line riders must make elevated subway transfer at Marble Hill.) Bring snacks, drinks. Heavy rain cancels. Inquiries: text only to Lesley Walter, 914-671-7112.