One of my very most favorite places in New York exists thirty feet above the city.
Beginning in 1847, an actual railway ran down the very busy 10th Avenue on the west side of Manhattan. Like seriously down the middle of the street.
A freight train.
When the train started colliding with pedestrians & their horses and carriages, the civil engineers started thinking that street-level tracks was maybe not the best plan. And then a glorious idea lightbulb went off…
NYC decided to combat the Death Train by employing what became known as The West End Cowboys: men who would ride on horseback in front of the train and help prevent accidents.
The Death Train was still able to claim a few victims each year- likely because people were so distracted watching the urban rodeo that they forgot to watch out for the train.
Seventy years later, NYC finally had to admit that city folk, like cats, aren’t great at being herded. In 1934, the railway was moved to an elevated track, thirty feet above Manhattan, where freight trains could unload their wares directly into the Chelsea Market.
Eventually an increase in interstate trucking decreased the need for the highline railway; it was abandoned and set for demolition in the 1980’s.
Luckily, a few determined folk thought it was something worth saving, and The High Line was approved as a public space. The first section of the park was opened to the public in 2009.
Day #11,327: Appropriately timed to celebrate the warmer weather and Earth Day, Mr. M & I decided to journey up to Chelsea for a stroll down The Highline.
Even when the park is crowded, it’s still nice to be in the presence of relatively wide open spaces.
One of my favorite spots on The High Line is a sunken stadium that overlooks the madness of 10th Ave below. It’s the perfect place to sit with a treat and just stare. I recently saw a documentary short about the making of the park, and I loved the way the landscape architect described the view. “It frames something that’s ordinarily thought of as extremely banal. There’s nothing to see, but it’s mesmerizing. Like staring into a crackling fire.”
The High Line has become one of Manhattan’s major tourist destinations.
It is *always* crowded with camera-laden visitors and locals wanting to soak up a few pools of sunlight on the built-in wooden chaise lounges. And is its popularity any wonder?
Every once in awhile, it’s refreshing to get a different perspective on my concrete jungle.
When my dear friend Lis & I happened into an indoor pop-up park last January- complete with picnic benches, flowery wall murals, a lemonade cart, and heat lamps- in what used to be a clothing store, Lis commented on how she’s forever taken with the ingenuity of NYC’s public spaces. And it’s true!
For all its concrete, Manhattan recognizes the importance of putting nature on a pedestal.
Or an elevated train line, as the case may be.
Details of the Day:
Getting up to the Highline: Since The High Line is only a mile in length, it makes sense to start at either the northern (30th St just west of 10th Ave) or southern (Ganesvoort just west of Washington) edge and stroll its length.
Chelsea Market: At 15th St, The High Line abuts (hee hee) the Chelsea Market, an industrial wonderland of stores and cafes and food stands. Yum um um. When we first moved to New York City from San Francisco, the Chelsea Market reminded Homesick Me of SF’s Ferry Building.
It’s totally worth venturing off The High Line for a brief and scrumptious tangent. Take the stairs or elevator down at 15th St and you’ll see a Market entrance along 10th Ave.
On a wintery day, Sarabeth’s serves up some of my favorite hot cocoa in Manhattan. Posman’s Books is always fun for a quick perusal. And when it’s springy and flowerful outside, a strawberry basil People’s Pop makes me Very, Very Happy, indeed.