New York's oldest bridge just reopened after more than 40 years -- here's its impressive history

There is only one pedestrian bridge that connects Manhattan with The Bronx.

The High Bridge, which has been a fixture in the city for over a century and a half, was completed in 1848. It was built before the Brooklyn Bridge, which went up in 1883, and the George Washington Bridge, which was completed in 1931.

It also played an role in bringing fresh water into the city.

But for more than 40 years, the High Bridge was closed to pedestrians.

In June, the High Bridge reopened after years of political wrangling and construction. It now connects the two boroughs, letting walkers and cyclists stroll over the Harlem River.

We trekked to the top of Manhattan to see this piece of new York history.

The High Bridge was completed a little more than a decade after construction started in 1837. It was done by 1848, and the walkway itself was finished in 1864. The design echoed a Roman aqueduct.

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

The bridge played an integral role in the modernization of New York City's water supply. It was an early part of the Old Croton Aqueduct, which was built to carry water from Westchester's Croton River into Manhattan.

New York City Public Library

It soon became a popular spot for tourists, artists, and photographers. Local attractions sprung up nearby. At the time, the northern reaches of the city were still considered the country, and the bridge could be reached by ferry. 'They came by the thousands on Sundays,' Sidney Hornstein, a geologist and historian, told The New York Times.

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

Source: The New York Times & NYC Parks

The Harlem River Speedway opened north of the High Bridge some 50 years, offering a spot for the wealthy to race their buggies. Boating was also popular around the bridge.

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

In 1927, the bridge's structure was reinforced to accommodate larger ships on the Hudson. A single steel span replaced several arches.

Eugene de Salignac, NYC Municipal Archives

Over time, the river became polluted, the paths became blocked, and the bridge fell into disrepair. It was closed to pedestrians in the early 1970s.

Wikipedia

The Parks Department announced plans to renovate and reopen the bridge in 2006, but budget and construction delays stalled the work.

Wired New York

The park finally re-opened to the public on June 9, 2015. We checked out the new park on a recent weekend. Even though it's right above a major highway, it's still not particularly easy to access by car. Several subway lines stop near the bridge, but are several blocks away on both the Bronx and Manhattan sides.

Jack Sommer

The bridge spans 1,200 feet from 'shore to shore' -- a 5 to 10 minute walk. If you're starting on The Bronx side, you'll end up in Highbridge Park in Washington Heights.

Jack Sommer

You can peer over The Harlem River Expressway (formerly Harlem River Speedway) when you're on the Manhattan side of the bridge.

Jack Sommer

If you walk over the bridge today, you'll be standing right above the aqueduct's original pipes.

Wikipedia

'Downtown Manhattan may have the High Line, but Uptown, we have the High Bridge,' Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr. said at the opening ceremony. Looking south off the bridge, you can see the Manhattan skyline in the distance.

Jack Sommer

There are plenty of parks and places to walk on both sides of the bridge if you want to extend your activity in the area. On The Bronx side, Yankee Stadium is only a short distance away.

Jack Sommer

And the nearby Highbridge Pool, the largest public pool in Manhattan, is now more easily accessible to Bronx residents. The High Bridge is open everyday from 7am to 8pm.

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

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