Sunday, May 31, 2015

Designation of the High Bridge as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

In 2009 the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (see picture above), situated in Wales (United Kingdom) was inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage Site List.  The Aqueduct was built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop and opened on November 26, 1805, and is a fine example of a highly engineered inland waterway transport route and a monument to the technological innovation and achievement that played such a crucial role in, and contributed significantly to the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a navigable aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the River Dee in Wrexham, Wales.  It is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain.
When the bridge was completed it linked the villages of Froncysyllte, at the southern end of the bridge in the Cysyllte township of Llangollen parish and the Trevor at the northern end of the bridge in the Trefor Isaf township of Llangollen parish.

The aqueduct is 1,007 ft. long, and 11 ft. wide and 5.25 ft. deep.  It consists of a cast iron trough supported 126 ft. above the river on iron arched ribs carried on 18 hollow masonry piers.  Each of the 19 spans is 53 ft. wide.  Design and construction started in 1795 and was completed some 10 years later.

The aqueduct and surrounding lands were submitted to the "tentative list" of properties being considered for UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1999.  The aqueduct was suggested as a contender in 2005, its 200th anniversary year, and it was formally announced in 2006 that a larger proposal including a section of the canal and the aqueduct would be the United Kingdom's 2008 nomination.  The aqueduct was inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List in June, 2009.

While the High Bridge Aqueduct was built some 40+ years later, opening in 1848, and used many similar construction techniques such as the cast iron pipes and the stone piers.  Yes, it has been modified somewhat in the 1920s with the replacement of the central piers with a steel span, but it does represent a historic structure that is deserving of special status, especially since the redevelopment work has now been completed.  While its place as a New York City Landmark is assured, having been designated as such in 1970, there may be a day when attitudes may change again, just as they turned early in the 20th century when there was an effort to demolish the High Bridge.  UNESCO World Heritage Site status would insure that no attempt would ever be made to remove it and would also place mark it as a worldwide destination for tourists and indelibly mark its importance to the history in providing the first really clean and plentiful supply of water for New York City, and thereby allowing one of the most important and advanced metropolitan cities in the world to thrive.

Should the New York City Administration file the nomination paperwork to designate the High Bridge as a World Heritage Site?  Let's hear what New Yorkers think about this idea! Please contact your elected representatives and the City Administration if you believe this is worthy of the designation and let us know what you think.


  1. Charles (Highbridge, Bronx)June 1, 2015 at 5:18 PM

    Hell, yes. Why haven't they done it before now?

  2. I think it's a great idea. What could the downside be? Unless you want it kept a secret.

  3. There are 22 Unesco World Heritage Sites currently within the United States. Only 4 of those sites were constructed after the "discovery" of America by Columbus and only 3 of those are within the United States proper.
    The sites are, Independence Hall in Philadelphia; the Statue of Liberty, in New York Harbor; Monticello and the University of Virginia in Virginia; and The Fortaleza in San Juan, Puerto Rico. All the other sites are either Native American or natural wonders in our national parks.
    It is about time that more sites within the United States qualify. I have no idea what the procedure is. Does anyone know?

  4. "Once a country signs the UNESCO World Heritage Convention [and the United States has signed the Convention], and has sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, the resulting prestige often helps raise awareness among citizens and governments for heritage preservation. Greater awareness leads to a general rise in the level of the protection and conservation given to heritage properties."

  5. And just what are the factors used to determine if a site is worthy of inclusion?

  6. To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. See this link for more information:

  7. The High Bridge is a World treasure. Thank goodness that now New Yorkers, and any others that are interested can enjoy the bridge from a new perspective while crossing the Harlem River. We should take this opportunity to thank all those who had the insight to push for this new addition to the New York experience.

  8. The City has done a lot to get this whole matter off the ground by restoring the bridge and making it capable of being used again. Why has there been so little effort on the part of the commercial interests in the area to compliment the effort so that it will be assured success?