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The City Concealed
The City Concealed, an online video series exploring the unseen corners of New York. Visit the places you don’t know exist, locations you can’t get into, or maybe don’t even want to. Each installment unearths New York’s rich history in the city’s hidden remains and overlooked spaces.

High Bridge

The High Bridge, completed in 1848 and now New York City’s oldest standing bridge, spans the Harlem River at 173rd Street in Manhattan. It officially closed sometime during the early 1970s — the Parks Department, mysteriously, isn’t certain of the exact date — but remained open for ranger tours until the late 1990s, when the gates were shut to all but Parks employees after engineers discovered structural flaws.

Today the bridge lies unused but not ignored. PLANYC, the Department of Parks & Recreation’s initiative to find new and creative uses for open or unused space, is in the process of restoring the bridge. They plan to re-open it to the public as part of Highbridge Park by 2013.

We were excited to walk the bridge before the restoration, not only to capture its features before they’re refurbished, but also because the City’s plan understandably calls for safety fences to be installed along the bridge in addition to the waist-high, 19th Century railing in place today. While the new, taller fences won’t altogether mar the panoramic views from the bridge, they will certainly diminish the open, birds-eye feeling one gets standing on its deck.

Daniel Ross, producer

  • comments (31)
  • Syla and Arnie

    You’ve done it again. Kudos……

  • Paul Guy

    Thanks for the terrific show. Very informative and interesting. I have often gone underneth the High Bridge in boat and wondered. Now I know a lot more.

  • tim

    they should build the safety gate out of glass. that would seriously make this one of the most popular parks in the entire city.

  • nanci Feuer

    Yes, send me THIRTEEN highlights by e-mail. Our adult children just moved to Brooklyn and I can forward the info to them. In addition to that, I find it very interesting and we plan to visit them often and and it will give us something interesting to do while in NYC!! Thank you

  • Barbara

    I grew up in the High Bridge area of The Bronx,, My Mom and I used to walk across it to get to stores and movie theater there — Greek Grocery stores; Wertheimer’s little Department Store; Citarella’s first fish store; The Colosseum Movie Theater. My sister and I loved to take a picnic lunch to a spot beneath the bridge to make believe we lived in the country,. Once there I lost a favorite green marbleized fountain pen I carried with me, and never forgot about.
    So glad this is being done; and the glass-guard would be a boon!

  • roberta hampson

    I loved this short blurb about my favorite city. I hope you keep these videos available. They are a treat. Your subjects are about places that I don’t know about, so please keep them coming.
    Thanks from an upstate fan (Syracsue).

  • margaret affinito

    Thanks so much I love Highbridge news. I did love growing up there. I have the greatest memories – putting up a glass fence is a super idea and although I hate to say it maybe the city can charge 25cents to regain the expense. Glass is very popular now – perhaps you can suggest it, Kevin.

  • Ana

    Great piece on the bridge. Thanks! Can’t wait until it reopens to the public.

  • susan

    Thank you, thank you for bringing life to this historical bridge. I lived in Highbridge in the 70′s and it was too dangerous then to cross the bridge, but I always wanted to. I would be happy to volunteer.

  • ray

    I used to climb the fence to cross that bridge throughout the summers back in the 90′s. It saved us alot of time when we would go to the Highbridge pool across that bridge coming from the bronx, Whats great about this is, last week, I drove by there and was explaining to my son how it is currently abandoned and how it connected the bronx to Manhattan once upon a time. I heard many stories from older highbridgians of how dangerous it was back in the 70′s, with the different gangs that controlled each side. Rhanks again, will keep a look out on that bridge

  • Mona

    Barbara wrote on Jan 17, 2011 that she used to walk across the High Bridge to shop in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, but I think she must mean the 181st Street Bridge (can’t recall the true name of it), also a walking bridge, a bit north of the High Bridge which connects Manhattan and the Bronx at 173rd St. I used to do the same and share the same experiences. Thanks Barbara.

  • Paul Bernaschina

    Hi: Brings back fond memories. I grew up in Washington Heights on 174 Street. I’m now 80 years old.

  • Paul Bernaschina

    Hope to hear from someone from the Heights & High Bridge.

    • Betty Acito

      Paul this is Betty. Have great memories of Washington Heights, you and all of the Caldarulo’s .

  • Lydia

    Isn’t this the bridge that used to an aquaduct? I see the water tower on the left side of the picture.

  • Marshall Blum

    Thanks for this great feature!

  • Dan

    To Barbara and Mona,
    I grew up in Highbridge (Bronx) Two blocks from both bridges. The bridge to the North was both a vehicle and a walking bridge. This was the Washington Bridge, dubbed the little Washington Bridge to distinguish it from the George Washington Bridge. Highbridge was strictly a walking bridge and used to walk to The large park on the Manhattan side primarily to go to the Highbridge Pool. Great memories.

  • Bob Plotkin

    Wow. I knew was a senior(79) but I didn’t know I was ancient history, I grew up in Highbrige -family lived on Undercliff Ave when I was born and then on Woodycrest Ave. We mainly used the 181st (Washington ) bridge to go to Washington Heights- either walking or using the trolly. (Remember those?) 181st was a thriving commercial center and had in additon to the Colosseum, an Automat and a subway station for the “A” line. I often walked Highbridge with a friend and his dog and the only danger was avoiding dog poop.The water tower was a landmark for the neighborhood and I hope it, also, will be preserved. If you want to do another segment on the City’s water system, I would suggest the Kensico dam which I remember as being particularly beautiful

  • Gloria

    Yes, with this wonderful site, YOU CAN go home again! It’s great for current New Yorkers and for those who have HAD to move elsewhere! Thank you.

  • Lee Hipius

    I am ready to be charmed by yet another gem in the history of this great city! It seems that many areas were accesible to people who WALKED, rather than drove, to fascinating destinations. Bring it on, ASAP! Bravo!

  • Anne

    I grew up in Wahington Heights in the ’30s and 40s and every day in the summers, my brother and I would go swimming in Highbridge pool. It opened at 10:oo am and for ten cents we could stay at the pool all day and have lots of fun. My mother would bring us lunch, we would eat and go right back in the pool, great days Thank you

  • bob

    Such a beautiful structure. Ashame it connects two parts of the city I wouldn’t normally visit.

  • Eve Widdows

    I have4 fond memories of High Bridge and the pool associated with it. Thank you for bringing back “the good old days.”

  • Mary Conway

    Super, keep up the good work.

  • Mary Conway

    So that’s what that structure is. I had called several dept. & never got an answer as to what it was. A water tower !

  • Helene

    …wow, just got into an argument with my co-worker, he was from Highbridge [left in the early 70's] I am from Bennet Ave 191st, in Washinton Hts, I didn’t think the bridge on 181st was called ‘little Washington’, but you proved me wrong. Thanks for helping maintain our working relationship. PS. Barabara I think ‘he’ saw the green marbelized pen on the bridge.Did anyone go to the sprinklers in Fort Tryon and get fugicles from Bungalow Bob [the icecream truck]?? let’s talk.

  • Diane Franco

    I lived @ 1277 Shakespeare ave next to the knights of columbus n Sacred Heart church was married in that church in the 1960′s. It was a great n clean & safe. I went back and my heart broke to see what happened to the area. I hope they do get it back to it’s glory. good Luck.

  • Bobby

    Grew up in Highbridge during 50′s,60′s and early 70′s. In the mid 60′s Coop City was completed and hence started the mass abandonment of apartment buildings. During the 40′s and 50′s, apartments in Highbridge were not advertised in the papers. You were either born there or had family that would vouch for you. That was the only way to get an apartment. Once Coop city was completed, sections of Highbridge started to see mass abandonments of the buildings from 161st to 165th street. A building that had 40 to 80 apartments could see 70% become vacant within 3 to 6 months. Lanlords started to advertise in the Amsterdam Press and Highbridge experienced a significant inflow of minorities looking for better living conditions for themselves and their children. Predjudices of the neighborhoods brought panic and from the mid 60′ to late 70′s the second mass exodus of long term residents ensued. Unfortunately, landlords were less selective in their accepting renters and thus began the era of gangs and drugs. It is sad that this occurred as I have fond memories of growing up in Highbridge and it didn’t have to happen. Those that moved out of Highbridge found apartments further north up University Avenue to Fordham, Treamont and furhterest northen sections of the Bronx. But what happened in Highbridge soon happened in those neighborhoods also. When my grandchildren ask me what happened to the Bronx, all I have to offer is that ignorance and predjudices destroy good things, it’s not something you should aspire to.

  • George Cowdery

    I grew up on 174th and Audubon Ave. I know by personal experience that the bridge was closed to foot traffic from at least 1960 on. (The wooden steps to the bridge from the water tower level were closed off 50 percent gone) As kids, we would hop the fence and manage the huge gaps in the steps and make our way to the bridge that was fenced off. We hopped the fence and walked across on numerous occasions. Some of the Aqueduct hatches on the walkway were open or missing. I remember climbing down into the steel pipes. (they were dry at the time) Spooky. It was a real no man’s land in the 60′s and seventies. Glad to see it will be rebuilt. It is sad to think I could have walked across the bridge to Yankee Stadium (and my high School on the Grand Concourse) had it not been left to decay.

  • dr.sliderule

    Great site to get updates on what is going on relative to the High Bridge at

    highbridgeparkdevelopment.blogspot.com

    • Taz

      Thank you!