Friday, September 25, 2015

My! My! Another Walking Tour on the High Bridge by Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct

Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct have posted yet a second Walking Tour to the High Bridge today.  This one, however, will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015 starting at the Dobbs Ferry Metro North train station in Westchester:
Let's just hope the tourists keep coming and encourage them to bring their own lunches and plenty to drink as there are really no food services anywhere near the High Bridge or Highbridge Park yet, except for Company Catered Events at the corner of 159th Street and Edgecombe Ave. where they can get a cup of coffee, a soft drink, and a pastry or something like that.

FOCA says:

"Washington Heights sites near the High Bridge deserve more attention, especially now that the  gleaming bridge beckons day trippers once more. Let’s take a long walk that will cross the Harlem  River via the High Bridge, hear the tale of the Old Croton Aqueduct, then wind back to the gorgeous  Jumel Terrace Historic District and to hidden Audubon Terrace. Along the way, we will pay homage to Paul Robeson, jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Lena Horne, the indomitable Eliza Jumel and to NY baseball.
The guide can accompany walkers from Westchester on the Metro North on Tuesday at 9:04am on    Octover 13, to the subway transfer to the #1 train at Marble Hill. Be prepared for many, many stairs   and 2-3 hours of hilly walking (2+ miles), plus elevated subway-train transfers. Westchester walkers   can return the same way they came.
Group size is limited and attendance is on a reservation-only basis. Please notify your guide of            cancellations! Contact: Lesley Walters, 914-671-7112."

Let's offer them the best of luck on their day trip.

Walking Tour of The High Bridge Presented by Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct

eet near the entrance to the Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Terrace, NYC. (just west of Highbridge Park between 161st St. and 162nd St.).  Directions to the Mansion, with transportation suggestions, can be found by clicking here.  
Participants will approach the bridge via the Aqueduct pathway along Coogan's Bluff, which leads north from 158th and Edgecombe Avenue to The High Bridge.  Once on the bridge participants will enjoy the views and marvel at the engineering feat completed in 1848. 
Three optional side trips are available:
 ---- a walk up the stairs on the Manhattan side of the bridge to view the tower and the former site of the reservoir (the stairway will be daunting for anyone who experiences difficulty climbing approximately 100 steep stairs).
----  a self-led tour of the Morris-Jumel Mansion (Manhattan’s oldest house – admission $10/$8) at the conclusion of the walk. 
----  a GPS proximity based walking app for the iPhone which identifies long forgotten Croton Aqueduct features On Coogan's Bluff (purchase price $3.99)
Without optional side trips, the walk from the Mansion to the far side of The High Bridge and back is on flat terrain and is approximately 2+ miles (2+ hours).  The tour along with the election of some of the side trips can turn this into a full half day of very unusual adventure right here in the middle of this great metropolitan area.
Reservations are required. Contact: Sara Kelsey, or call 646-303-1448.
rain date: Sunday, the 25th

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Jazz in the Heightzz -- Oct 1, Nov 5 and Dec 3

“Jazz in the Heightzz” presents jazz concerts at a growing number of well-known venues in Washington Heights, including many at Word Up Bookstore -- 2113 Amsterdam Avenue @ 165th St.
A wonderful evening of Jazz, refreshments and books. No cover, donations appreciated.  More information on
Thursdays, October 1, November 5 and December 3, 2015,  6-9pmWord Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria
113 Amsterdam Ave. (at 165 St.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Highbridge 161st St. Business Improvement District Commissions Mural of A Rod

Photo by Silvio Pacifico


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Hyperloop Pneumatic Tube for the High Bridge?

In 1897 the United States Post Office started to install pneumatic tubes in a number of metropolitan areas in order to expedite the delivery of the mail. By 1898 they were in operation.   

Robin Pogrebin, in an article in the New York Times on May 7, 2001, wrote an interesting article on the history of the system.  In the article he highlights some of the features of the system.  The system was thoroughly modern, even high-tech, a subterranean network for priority and first-class mail powered by air pressure.  These tubes were installed in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis.  In Manhattan, they extended about 27 miles, from the old Custom House in Battery Park to Harlem and back through Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and the main post office near Pennsylvania Station. In the picture above at the at the City Hall station, the mail went over the Brooklyn Bridge to the general post office in Brooklyn. 

The system used pressurized air to move a mail canister through an underground eight-inch cast-iron pipe.  In New York City, two pipes were used along each route, one for sending, the other for receiving.  The pipes were buried 4 to 12 feet underground, though in some places the tubes were placed within subway tunnels.  Improvements in the speed of the motor-wagon and its successor, the automobile, signaled the end of the pneumatic tube.  The tube system remained in operation in New York City until December 1, 1953.

Artist's impression of a Hyperloop capsule: Air Compressor on the front, passenger compartment in the middle, battery compartment at the back and air bearing skis at the bottom.

The modern day equivalent to the pneumatic air tube of the postal service of the late 19th century might arguably be the hyperloop (see illustration above), a conceptual high-speed transportation system proposed by Elon Musk in 2013 as a means of efficiently transporting people and goods quickly over large distances.  The Hyperloop would incorporate reduced pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules would ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.

We know that there are three tubes in the High Bridge.  Perhaps one of those tubes, the one that was added some 40 years after the original bridge was built, when the Croton Aqueduct was expanded to meet the growing need for water in New York would be large enough to support a hyperloop vehicle. 
High Bridge during Construction
Tube diameter 7 ft. 6 1/2 in.

Perhaps this could be incorporated into the mass transit system of New York City to allow residents of the Bronx to quickly cross the Harlem River to get to Manhattan.  If that is not practical, then perhaps the tube might be used for some sort of tourist attraction to get visitors to come up to the northern part of Manhattan to "Ride the High Bridge Tube".  After all, San Francisco has it's Cable Cars and Ferry Rides to attract tourists.  New York City could become the only city in the world with a hyperloop tube!

Let us know what you think.

last modified 9/16/15

Urban Sketchers Descend on Highbridge Park

On Sunday, September 13, 2015, the New York City chapter of Urban Sketchers came to Highbridge Park.  The event was a huge success. Please click here to see some of the sketches that were rendered by the participants.  Thanks for coming.  What a great idea to come uptown!  We hope you enjoyed the visit.
Another post from Urban Sketchers appeared on September 17, 2015.

last modified 9/17/15

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Very Early Photos of the High Bridge Water Tower and the Pumping Station

Advanced Stereoscopic

Compare and contrast the photo above with another one from the early days after the Water Tower was built below.

Notice that in the upper picture the current cupola of the High Bridge Water Tower is not yet installed as shown in the lower picture.  The pumping station and smoke stack are also clearly visible in both pictures.  In the lower picture you can also see the reservoir behind the Water Tower.  The Water Tower was authorized for construction in 1863, but was not completed until 1872, so the picture with the partial completion of the Water Tower had to be taken before the completion date of 1872.

In this last picture from 1863 you can see the construction of the third tube on the Aqueduct when it was expanded. While the other two pictures were shot facing Manhattan, this was shot from the Manhattan side facing toward the Bronx.  At this time, in 1863, the construction of the Water Tower had not been started yet.  The construction of the pedestrian walkway was also not started either.

For more information on the High Bridge Aqueduct Water Tower see our post from 2013

Friday, September 11, 2015

NYC DOT Proposes Bike Lanes on St. Nicholas Ave. near Highbridge Park

On September 10, 2015 NYC DOT made a presentation to Community Board 12 for a revamping of the traffic lanes along St. Nicholas Avenue from 169th Street to 193rd Street.  The key feature to the reworking of the lanes would be the reduction of vehicular traffic from two lanes in each direction to one lane of vehicular traffic in each direction with a bicycle lane and center left turn lane added (see sample block above).

The entire presentation slide show is presented below and is self explanatory.  Restriping of St. Nicholas Ave. may begin as early as next spring.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Preservation Alumni to Hold Fall Work Day at Highbridge Park on September 19

For this year’s Fall Work Day, Preservation Alumni, a non-profit organization of friends and alumni of the Historic Preservation Program of Columbia University, is heading to Washington Heights to work in Highbridge Park with the New York Restoration Project. The High Bridge – New York City’s oldest standing bridge – is finally open again after more than 40 years. Built in 1848 and originally called Aqueduct Bridge, the pedestrian walkway reopened this year, connecting Manhattan and the Bronx over the Harlem River. After working in Highbridge Park, they will have lunch and head down to the bridge to hear more about its restoration from someone familiar with the project. 
Please note: 

 New York Restoration Project will provide all the materials needed including gloves, sunscreen, and bug spray, and will direct what needs to be done. Stay tuned for specifics on where to meet closer to the 19th!
 Work will be outside in a park, so wear closed-toed shoes and pants (note: there may be poison ivy)
 Bring a water bottle!
Where: Highbridge Park (Depending on where the meeting point will be, take the 1 train to 181st or 191st)
When: Saturday, September 19th, 10am – 12pm (followed by lunch and a talk/tour)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The High Bridge Part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection

High Bridge, New York City
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has in its collection the image of the High Bridge above as part of its collection.  The image itself is a view from the south side in the Bronx (from the grand stairway) looking toward Manhattan.  You can see the Water Tower and the smoke stack for the pumping station at the end of the bridge on the Manhattan side.

It is from the Bridges series (N102) to promote Honest Long Cut Tobacco manufactured by W. Duke Sons & Co.
Publisher: Issued by W. Duke, Sons & Co. (New York and Durham, N.C.)
Lithographer: Knapp & Company (American, New York)
Date: 1890
Medium: Commercial color lithograph
Dimensions: Sheet: 2 1/2 × 4 3/16 in. (6.4 × 10.7 cm)
Classification: Prints
Credit Line: The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick
Accession Number: 63.350.205.102.9

The card was one of 25 in a series of images of bridges.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Oldest Tunnels in New York City

There are a variety of types of tunnels that can be built. Primarily they are the cut and fill and the true tunnel.  In the cut and fill method, which is used because it is much cheaper to construct, a trench is dug, the tunnel walls and ceiling are constructed of masonry or other materials, and then the earth is returned to the trench to "bury" the tunnel.  The true tunnel is constructed by literally digging from one end to the other (or, more often, digging from both ends towards the middle). Some true tunnels are dug in dirt, and others through stone. The advantage of stone, many times, is the lack of need for a supporting structure, but the disadvantage, of course, is that the tunnel must be cut from the very strong stone, which makes it much more difficult and time consuming, not to mention the cost.

The oldest true tunnel in NYC for rail traffic, or any kind of traffic, is the Mount Prospect Tunnel in Manhattan, opened in 1837. It now forms the center two tracks of Metro North from 92nd St. to 94th St. under Park Ave. The tunnel north and south of it, and the one-track tunnels on each side of it, were added in 1873-1875, but the Mount Prospect Tunnel was left in place and became part of the larger “Fourth Avenue Improvement”

The following illustration that appeared in the November 14, 1874 issue of the Scientific American shows the ground elevation and other pertinent information on the underground rail line from 42nd St to the Harlem River which was completed in 1875.  Of course, Fourth Avenue, became Park Ave.
In the center frame I have enlarged below you can clearly see that the section between 92nd and 94th Streets is labelled "Rock Tunnel."

Interestingly, the area that the Mount Prospect Tunnel is located is now called the Carnegie Hill area of the upper East side of Manhattan.  That name, Carnegie Hill, became the new name for Mount Prospect after Andrew Carnegie purchased land (1897) and built his residence (1903) at 91st Street and 5th Ave., a few blocks away from the tunnel.

The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel (also referred to as the Cobble Hill Tunnel) in Brooklyn was built in 1844-45 and is touted as the oldest Railway Tunnel in the world, it has been cited that the Mount Prospect Tunnel, while having been built earlier, was originally built for street cars and only converted to be a railway tunnel in the mid 1870s.

Cobble Hill Tunnel

Another true tunnel was constructed for the Croton Aqueduct in upper Manhattan which opened in 1842, on Coogan's Bluff located in HIghbridge Park.  This tunnel has been documented along with other features of the Old Croton Aqueduct in the Historic Adventure Walking Tour app developed by Paul Kittas who has been a contributor to this site.  Clearly, the Coogan's Bluff Tunnel, was not for traffic at all, but rather a viaduct for water and appears to have been constructed around five years after the Mount Pleasant Tunnel was completed.  While the site of this tunnel has not been prepared for real easy viewing, it is well worth the trip to see it. It is actually more accessible than the other early tunnels.