The viaduct was raised off the ground in 1929, to serve the Meat Packing District
The rise of trucking in the 1950s led to a drop in rail freight on the High Line, and in the 1960s, the southernmost portion was torn down. The final train carried freight down the High Line in 1980. In 1993, more of the viaduct, between Bank and Little West 12th Sts, was demolished.
Although the elevated structure is basically sound, the abandoned 3 ks stretch of railroad viaduct was ugly and overgrown with weeds. Worse, it was accessible only to those who risked life and limb, trespassing on Railroad property. It was mostly forgotten, except by architects, conservationists and neighbours who were mesmerised by its solitude and wild quality.
In 1999 the Giuliani administration signed an agreement joining the property owners’ move to DEMOLISH the rusting and ugly High Line. So a community-based group, Friends of the High Line, immediately got itself established. Locals Robert Hammond and Joshua David created plans to turn the High Line into an elevated park or greenway, similar to an unused rail viaduct in Paris’ 12th arrondissement that became the Promenade Plantée. The Municipal Art Society, American Institute of Architects, the Society for Industrial Archaeology, the New York chapters of the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Architects also urged preservation.
Sunbaking in the greenery, just next to where High Line meanders through Chelsea Market
At places where the High Line went through buildings, like the former National Biscuit Company building that is now the Chelsea Market, the decision-makers were open to commercial uses for the High Line. This was presumably to generate income to maintain the project.
In April 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg presided over a groundbreaking ceremony, marking the beginning of construction on the High Line project. By early 2007, most of the old rail tracks had been removed, making way for the elevated park.
By mid 2008 a natural oasis was created in an urban city. This southern section included five access stairways and three elevators. A hotel developer built The Standard Hotel, straddling the High Line at Little West 12th St. The Gansevoort Street terminus at the south end of the High Line was considered for a new museum by a number of organisations.
The new Standard Hotel straddles the old High Line
The High Line Channel features art films and videos, including historic works, new productions and curated series. During the High Line’s regular operating hours, the Channel can be viewed from the Seating Steps at West 22nd St.
Having a 22-block elevated urban park that connected neighbourhoods and provided a special sense of place… was a unique and transformative public experience. I actually believe it was a radical demonstration of people-power and local planning. What an interesting premise - that an open space can be at the heart of neighbourhood revitalisation.
Can there be further growth in the future? Of course. Someone may be inspired to built a beach on the High Line, or a golf course, or a music bowl. Architect Steven Holl hopes one day to make the High Line part of a green loop, connected to the new Hudson River Park by a series of pedestrian bridges that would soar above the fierce traffic of West Street. The sky is the limit!
The sense of wild plants has been maintained