Sunday, January 17, 2016


Copyright Friends of the High Bridge, LTD, with permission. All rights reserved.
Click on picture above to enlarge

While there are many old photographs and lithographs depicting the High Bridge, there are relatively few actual photographs, or in this case, stereographs, of the High Bridge taken during the period of time from when it was completed in 1848, and 1861, when the third tube was added to increase the capacity of the the aqueduct, and the height of the aqueduct was raised to accommodate the new tube, and the pedestrian walkway was altered.

Notice that on the two stereographs above, on the sides of the deck of the bridge, there are walls which are higher than the center pedestrian walkway.  These pictures were clearly taken before the larger center tube was installed during the 1861-1862 enlargement when the center tube was added. 

Below is a side view of the aqueduct during this period.

When altered, the new tube was placed between and slightly above the other two original tubes resulting in the surface of the pedestrian walkway on top having to be raised about six feet. See the illustration below.

Illustration from 

The Water Supply of the City of New York, 1658-1895

By Edward Wegmann

This, in turn, eliminated the walls on the walkway.  Actually, the walls are still there but the surface was raised to a level higher than the top of the walls.  The walls were then raised a few feet to allow the new surface of paver bricks to be level to the edge. A railing was installed to protect the pedestrians from falling off. Notice also that this (the original configuration of the deck of the bridge) is the configuration that shows in the sketch of Poe crossing the High Bridge from presumably the late 1840s. The first two stereoviews appears to have been taken facing toward Manhattan. There is no pumping station, reservoir or tower visible either.

Notice also that the men in the picture are wearing top hats resembling stove pipes, which were all the rage in the 1850s. The picture of Abraham Lincoln on the right in his stove top hat should be familiar to most readers.

We are not aware of other photographics picture of the deck of the bridge from before the center tube was added. The pictures above were taken between 1848, when the High Bridge was originally completed and about 1860, when the construction of the center tube started.  Most likely this pictures were taken some time during the 1850s.

Here (below) is another photograph of the deck just as they are installing the brick pavers after the third tube was installed (c. 1862-3).  Note that the bricks come up to the top of the wall.

High Bridge, c. 1862-3
Here is the High Bridge during the installation of the third tube, before the brick pavers were installed:

The picture below is from the period of time in 1927-9 when they removed the arches in the Harlem River and replaced them with the steel arch.

You should be able to see the original top of the walls (horizontally oriented cross section) with the additional stone (square cross section) added to raise the wall making the deck level such that the brick pavers can clear the new third tube.

Also note the building on top of the hill to the right of the High Bridge in the first three photos of the High Bridge above. It is harder to see the building in the first photo, but you can clearly make out the pattern of the windows and the shape of the building in both photos.  If you have any doubts, look at this next picture.

The building is still up there on the right, but now you see the tower, the reservoir and the pumping station.  Also, note the brick pavers all the way to the top surface of the walls and the railings installed.

last modified 5/17/2016


  1. Carl (Upper West Side)February 13, 2016 at 1:27 AM

    Fascinating! I never thought a picture from over 150 years ago could be so interesting. Almost like a CSI TV show.

  2. John (Amsterdam Ave.)February 13, 2016 at 1:07 PM

    I think the last time I saw so many people dressed up so well on the High Bridge was when they had that fashion show after it opened last year. Hard to imagine people dressing like that to go walk on a bridge.

  3. Did anyone notice how high up in the air the photographer must have been to take that picture?

  4. Bravo! Keep the blog posts coming. I love the obscure factoids that you come up with.

  5. I think this site is the best source that exists for images of the High Bridge. Between the historical ones, the current ones, the etchings, and of course the paintings and sketches! Wow, keep up the good job.