The High Line's
current terminus, looking south on Washington Street. The High Line
once ran another half mile or so to Clarkson Street and Washington Street,
terminating at the former St. John's Park Freight Terminal. The building
is now a commercial building, called St. John's Center. Just down
the block, a yellow building juts out in to the sidewalk. This building
was the former Bell Telephone Laboratories Building. The giant tunnel
portals still remain inside the building. In the 1960's, the High
Line between the former Bell Telephone Laboratories building (now Westbath
Artists Housing) and the St. John's Park Freight Terminal was torn down.
Why A Virtual Tour of the High Line?
Did you ever go to Chelsea in Manhattan and question to yourself why an old, rusting elevated railroad line existed in this area? Your webmaster at OldNYC.com has always been intrigued by this particular railroad right-of-way (ROW). Just two days after the first major snowstorm of the century hit New York City, I trekked out to Chelsea to start taking pictures of the High Line for OldNYC.com's High Line Virtual Tour.
Before we continue our tour, a little bit of history:
The High Line was built in the 1930's as part of the West Side Improvement
project. The project also included the construction of the Henry
Hudson Parkway and the expansion of Riverside Park. Tracks that once
ran through Riverside Park as a surface ROW were covered over, allowing
for more parkland above the ROW. A trenched railroad cut made up
the ROW from 72nd Street to 34th Street. The elevated portion of
the High Line ran from 34th Street to Clarkson Street. Before the
High Line was elevated, freight trains ran along the surface streets of
10th and 11th Avenues. Having trains running up and down surface
streets was a dangerous undertaking, and many accidents - both vehicular
and pedestrian - resulted in each street being referred to as "Death Avenue".
Like many New York City infrastructure projects at the time, Robert Moses
played an instrumental role in the construction and development of the
High Line and the West Side Improvement project.
A map of the route of the New York Central High Line.
Map provided by Harry Hassler; original map creator unknown.
Looking north at the corner of Horatio Street and Washington Street, this building was home of the former Manhattan Refrigerating Company. The High Line right-of-way once went trough the building. One can still see the outlines of where the ROW went in to the building. Notice the gray brick with the three stripes going across it - that used to be the south side opening for the ROW. One also see the large brick pillars on the side of the building. One can judge by the height of the pillars, from the Grocery store's green awning, to where the top of the pillar meets the decorative facade, how large an area the clearance of the ROW was inside of the building.
A fence marks the end of the truncated High Line, which currently ends at Gansevoort Street and Washington Street. In 1990, Conrail sold the viaduct that ran from Gansevoort Street to Bank Street to the Rockrose Development Company. The Rockrose Development Company tore down the structure in this area.
It appears as if the demolition company cut the structure at where the trestle for Washington Street and Gansevoort Street once stood. A store resides below the viaduct.
This area is just south of the New York City's infamous meat market.
In fact, many of the High Line's old railroad freight traffic consisted
of deliveries to various meat market warehouses along the ROW.
Walking north along Washington Street, the viaduct runs adjacent to the street in this area.
The New York Central railroad company operated the freight line for most of the line's operational life. New York Central built the viaduct in the 1930's. After the New York Central folded, Conrail took over the High Line, and continued to run freight operations along the line until 1980. CSX railroad, in a joint venture with Norfolk Southern railroad, took over Conrail's operations and properties, and jointly share control of the High Line viaduct. CSX is not interested in keeping up with maintaining this rusting line, as operational and maintenance costs are extremely high. Railroad estimates tally these costs to up to $400,00 per year, with the majority of the money being paid to property taxes. The line is not officially listed as "abandoned", as the Surface Transportation Board denied Conrail's request to abandon the line in 1992.
What to do with the line is the key question that does not have easy
answers, as we will soon see as the tour continues.
-->> Click Here to Continue Along to High Line to West 14th Street!
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