Virtual Tour of the High Line

Hi. I’m Katherine with Free Tours by Foot here to guide you on a tour of the Highline. Our tour starts at the southern entrance to the High Line at Gansevoort Street. The closest subways are the A,C,E and L trains at 14th Street and 8th Avenue. When you arrive at Gansevoort Street you should see a set of stairs leading up to the High Line. On your way here from the subway you passed through some of the Meatpacking District. Today this is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city. It’s known for its upscale shopping and its nightlife The name comes from the area’s much humbler origins though. It was once home to about 250 meatpacking businesses and slaughterhouses. Other business in the area included cigar makers and auto repair shops. So even though many of these buildings today house upscale shops and restaurants, they have a decidedly industrial quality to them. The area began to decline in the 1960s especially with the creation of supermarkets which changed the way meat and other groceries were distributed Even though the meatpacking business stayed the major industry in the neighborhood through the 1970s the area also became home to drug dealing and prostitution BDSM clubs also flourished in the area through the 1980s by the 1990s. Though the area started undergoing a major transformation. Stella McCartney Alexander McQueen and Diane von Furstenberg opened boutiques in the area High-end restaurants opened up and the character Samantha on Sex in the City moved in. The neighborhood had definitely arrived. Today the Meatpacking businesses have almost all vanished but there are still a few left. You’ll be able to see a couple of them once you’re up on the High Line. So go ahead and walk up the stairs. When you get to the top press play The building that you see in front of you is the new home of the Whitney Museum of American Art which was designed by architect Renzo Piano and opened up on May 1st 2015. The building includes approximately 50,000 square feet of exhibition space inside and another 13,000 square feet of exhibition space outside. The lobby gallery is open to visitors free of charge and the permanent collections are housed on higher floors. The style of the building is meant to celebrate its location and work with the industrial buildings that surround it and of course the Highline itself. The Whitney Museum was founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney as a part of her advocacy for living American artists in the early 20th century. American artists had a very difficult time selling their work or even getting someone to display it. Mrs. Whitney, a fellow artist seeing their struggle, began purchasing and showing their work In 1914 she established the Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village to show the work of artists disregarded by the art establishment. By 1929 she had a collection of over 500 works. She offered them as an endowment to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their refusal led to the creation of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1930 the museum was to focus exclusively on the artists of America the museum began on West 8th Street but it’s also been located on West 54th and on East 75th before it moved to its new home the museum is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 o’clock p.m. on Mondays and also Wednesdays through Sundays museum is closed on Tuesdays if you look over the railing on the museum side of the High Line you can look down and see the few remaining meatpacking businesses still in the neighborhood now turn to your right away from the museum and you should see a building ahead of you straddling the High Line this direction is north we’ll be heading north up the High Line for the remainder of the tour before we start heading up the High Line a few things about the structure that you’re standing on the High Line was originally constructed as a part of something called the West Side Improvement Project which was approved in 1929 prior to that as early as 1847 railroads ran down the West Side of Manhattan at street level the construction of the elevated rail tracks which was completed in 1934 was a huge relief from both a safety and a traffic standpoint the original tracks ran from 34th Street down to st. John’s Park terminal at Spring Street the rail tracks in many places were connected directly to factories and warehouses on New York’s industrial west side the rise of interstate trucking in the 1950s made rail shipping less popular and the use of the High Line started to diminish by 1960 the southernmost part of the line from Ganz of work down to Spring Street was demolished almost half of the original structure the last train ran on the High Line in 1980 groups began to

lobby for the demolition of the High Line and it was disconnected from the National rail system because it was assumed that it would be torn down over the years of disuse grasses and shrubs began to grow along the tracks the landscaping that’s on the High Line today is meant to evoke that natural growth that occurred in 1999 a non-profit group called Friends of the High Line was created to advocate transforming the High Line into a public park similar to the promenade plantée in Paris fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg was a major backer of the project the first section of the Highline Park opened in 2009 with the following sections opening in 2011 and 2014 the High Line has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city and it sparked a complete redevelopment of the area around it let’s go explore the High Line turn your attention back to that building in front of you that’s straddling the High Line this is the standard hotel the standard hotel was built in 2009 and was declared the municipal art society’s best new building for that year the window design lends itself heavily to exhibitionists and voyeurs alike in fact the building’s stirred up a bit of controversy because it seemed that the hotel was encouraging both an ad campaign rant encouraging guests to stay at the not yet finished hotel and the tagline red will put up with your banging if you’ll put up with ours today the hotel boasts over 300 rooms and one of the most popular rooftop Bars in the city now you’re going to walk north up the Highline you’re going to pass underneath the standard hotel and underneath the next building that you come to when you come out on the other side press play look over the railings on the left side of the Highline out at the Hudson River you should see the shell of the pier 54 gateway try to picture the way the Hudson would have looked with all the massive passenger liners docking here pier 54 belonged to the Cunard Line this is where the RMS Lusitania disembarked before being sunk by a German u-boat the event that led to the United States entering World War 1 this pier was also the drop-off for the survivors of the Titanic in 1912 the RMS Carpathia brought them here after dropping the lifeboats up at Pier 59 continue to head north and stop just before you get to the next building then press play the building that you see here along with about 20 other buildings on 14th and 15th streets was built for the National Biscuit Company or Nabisco the trains brought flour sugar butter and shortening stew these buildings to make favorite treats like Fig Newtons Barnum’s animal crackers and Nilla wafers legend has it that the Oreo was invented right here so you were walking on hallowed cookie ground today this building houses the Chelsea Market and television facilities for oxygen and the food network other tenants of the complex are Major League Baseball and Google head underneath the building when you come to a curved piece of track on your left press play the piece of track on your left is known as the southern spur the Spurs of the Highline are curved pieces that veer off the main track this one allowed trains to go right into the Nabisco warehouse if you look closely you can even see NBC written above the spur that stands for National Biscuit Company if you walk further under the covered area and look to your left you should sees panes of colored glass this is an art installation called the river that flows both ways which was the Native Americans name for the Hudson River artist Spencer Finch created this by snapping one photo per minute of the Hudson River for 700 minutes the colors of the panes are taken from a single pixel point in each of the 700 photos so you’re not just looking at panes of glass but all the colors of the river there are art installations all up and down the High Line so make sure you’re keeping an eye out head out from under the building and when you get to the next curve or spur press play this spur is known as the northern spur the landscape on the northern spur is meant to be reminiscent of the growth that was occurring on the elevated tracks of the Highline before the park was created this spur led directly into the merchants refrigerating company warehouse the large brick building that you see off to your left it opened up in 1918 in that time period businesses didn’t have their own refrigerators and freezers they had to rent out space and buildings like the one that you see keep walking north up the High Line until you get to an overlook onto the Avenue take a seat there and then press play no

matter what terrible traffic snarls you see below you have to know that it used to be infinitely worse the Avenue below is tenth Avenue though it was known for time as death Avenue before the High Line was constructed trains came down 10th Avenue at street level alongside all of the carts and carriages and pedestrians because of the accidents and even fatalities that occurred the Avenue became known as death Avenue in December of 1850 the city decided that something needed to be done this led to the creation of some of the most interesting figures in New York City’s history the West Side Cowboys their job was to ride out in front of the trains waving red flags or red lanterns at night warning pedestrians out of the way rather than hiring locals the city preferred country riders who were a little more used to being on horseback and wouldn’t get rattled in the stressful environment for decades the West Side Cowboys could be seen in chaps and cowboy hats herding train cars when the Westside Improvement Project was introduced in 1929 the future of the Cowboys in New York was threatened the completion of the High Line in 1934 made them more unnecessary as many trains were being taken above street level the final ride was by westside cowboy George hade and his horse cyclone in 1941 leading a train of 14 freight cars filled with oranges when you leave the Overlook you should see a little grove of maple trees off to the side this is called 10th Avenue square if you go over there and look south over the railing you’ll have a nice view of the Statue of Liberty in the distance then turn north and start heading up the High Line until you get to West 17th Street look towards the river and press play the massive blue and gray complex that you see to your left is called Chelsea Piers inside there’s a golf club a bowling alley a skating rink indoor rock climbing and much more burning law-and-order fans this is also where the production studios for that franchise are located but this complex is actually a repurposing of what was originally their large piers for the luxury liners that used to dock here one of the piers you’re looking at is Pier 59 in 1912 this pier was owned by the White Star Line and was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Titanic when the ship went down the RMS Carpathia picked up the survivors and brought them to pier 54 but their first stop was here at 59 to drop off the lifeboats the building that you can see next to it that looks eerily like an iceberg is the IAC building designed by Frank Gehry in 2007 IAC owns Newsweek and over the years large ocean liner started moving to piers further uptown but Chelsea Piers was the point of departure for the US Olympic team including Jesse Owens as they made their way to the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin during World War two the piers were used to deploy troops construction on the current complex started in 1994 now you’re going to keep heading north so you get to 18th Street then press play if you look to your left you should see a low-lying building that’s the site of the former Roxy nightclub which opened as a roller disco in 1978 during this time it was referred to as the Studio 54 of roller rinks ice skating started become a little less popular the Roxy rebranded itself as a dance club in the 1980s the club became known as a hip-hop venue they also hosted MC battles and breakdancing and double dutch competitions as the city changed over the years the Roxy evolved as well in the 1990s they were known for hosting the biggest weekly gay dance party in the city many famous artists have graced the Roxy over the years including cher Cyndi Lauper Madonna Bette Midler and Beyonce the club finally closed its doors on March 10 2007 a documentary called Roxy the last dance was created about the club’s final party plans were in place to demolish the building for new residential development but in 2008 rumors surfaced that the Roxy would reopen the local community board has said that the club can reopen if it serves the community in the long term so we’ll see now you’re going to continue north to 19th Street the area you’re going through is called the Chelsea grassland take your camera out for the walk there’s a really precise spot where you can line up one of the neo-gothic towers of the seminary with the Empire State Building it’s a great photo-op when you get to 19th Street look to your left and press play

the first building on the southwest side of the street is the kitchen a nonprofit art and performance space the strange-sounding name references the organization’s original location the kitchen of the Mercer Arts Center in 1971 video artists began showing their work there in the kitchen began to expand and include artists of many kinds but the focus was on emerging artists whose work was of an experimental nature some alumni have included Brian Eno and Philip Glass the Beastie Boys also gave an early performance at the kitchen they moved to their current location in 1986 this was seen as a dramatic and kind of weird choice because the area was predominantly auto repair shops when the New York Times covered the move uptown they said this neighborhood will be the next Soho Soho had been home to New York’s art galleries for many years and the New York Times ended up really hitting the nail on the head with that one because many of the galleries would move to Chelsea in the coming years now keep walking north to 20th Street look to your right at the red brick complex and press play the neighborhood that you see around you all used to be a part of a large private estate originally owned by major Thomas Clarke a British veteran of the French and Indian War he named his estate Chelsea after a Veterans Hospital in London his estate was passed down through his family and ended up with his grandson Clement Clarke Moore when New York City announced the commissioners plan to expand in 1811 Moore was extremely opposed that was understandable since 9th Avenue was set to cut right through his property he eventually realized that he couldn’t fight the growth of New York and he was in possession of some pretty desirable real estate he sold his land off in Lots to New Yorkers with a lot of money he reserved his apple orchard though and he donated that to the Episcopal Diocese for a seminary the neo-gothic structure that you’re looking at right now was built in 1927 and it takes up most of 20th and 21st streets between 9th and 10th avenues Clement Clarke Moore ‘s other legacy is far better known he composed a poem called a visit from st Nicholas for his family it’s more commonly called twas the night before Christmas and it’s responsible for many of our modern conceptions of Santa Claus now go to the left side of the High Line to look at 20th Street to the west then press play if you look out to your left you should see some warehouses on the north side of the street during the 1940s these held several tons of uranium was being stored there as a part of the Manhattan Project the research and development of the world’s first atomic bomb during World War two this was done because of news that German scientists had learned how to split a uranium atom fears arose that Nazi scientists would use that energy to create devastating weapons Albert Einstein himself wrote a letter to President Roosevelt urging him to create an atomic research program the Manhattan Project began to be used as a codename Columbia University was one of the first facilities used for research and the army branch of the project was temporarily headquartered at 270 Broadway now you’re going to continue north to 21st Street when you come to a church pressed right up against the High Line stop and press play when you look at Church of the guardian angels on your right it looks like it was the unfortunate victim of the building of the High Line and accidentally got squished up against the train tracks this church was believe it or not placed purposefully their original location was further uptown and it was directly in the path of the new elevated tracks so they were forced to demolish their building and move for their new location they chose a spot directly against the tracks that made them move in the first place this church was built in 1930 and when the High Line was in operation Sunday worshippers could often hear and feel the trains just rattling past if you look at the stained glass windows on the backside of the church you can see that they are literally a couple of meters from where the trains would have been running now you’re going to continue north through an area that fails a little bit like a tunnel when the High Line opens out again you’re gonna see some wooden bleachers up ahead of you look out onto West 22nd Street and press play take a look out to your left at 22nd Street on the north side of the street is the Chelsea home of the renowned dia foundation the DIA foundation was originally founded in

1974 as the Lonestar foundation by a group of art patrons in Houston the intent of the deal was to support projects whose nature or scale would preclude other funding sources the name dia is taken from the Greek word for through it’s meant to suggest that the foundation would enable projects that otherwise wouldn’t come to fruition the DIA foundation first came to Chelsea in 1987 in a converted warehouse they would typically for one artist an entire floor to develop a new project or to show their existing work the artist generally got one year in the space originally dia Chelsea got about 16 thousand visitors a year but by 2004 numbers had grown to about sixty thousand visitors a year they closed the warehouse in 2004 for what was supposed to be a renovation but the repairs needed ended up being more extensive than they had anticipated so they sold the building in 2007 for 38 and a half million dollars ideas for a new space were proposed they actually considered taking the spot at the base of the High Line where the Whitney is today but they eventually decided on the 22nd Street building it’s actually three buildings that have they have woven together with interconnected galleries the new facility has over 15,000 square feet of exhibition space when the DIA moved to Chelsea they were really trendsetters most of New York’s galleries ended up moving from Soho to Chelsea today from 20th to 29th streets in the neighborhood you can find over 100 art galleries so if you’re an art lover explore the area galleries typically open new shows on Thursday night so for a fun and free night out you can gallery hop to all the openings and you get free wine all along the way now you’re going to continue north to 23rd Street just past the elevator and look out to your right at the absolutely enormous structure across tenth Avenue and then press play you’re looking at the London terrace apartments when it was built this was the largest apartment complex in the entire world with about 1,700 apartments and an Olympic sized swimming pool construction started in 1929 and the project was being headed up by a man named Henry Mendel he had selected the spot because of its proximity to midtown Manhattan his idea was to create modestly priced housing for white-collar workers he was not prepared though for a roadblock in the form of a very tough lady named Tillie Hart Tillie Hart had been living in a subleased house and she was absolutely certain that she had the right to be in that house until May of 1930 the underlying lease for the house had actually expired so Mandel had legal rights to the property but Tillie Hart absolutely refused to move the construction had started and all of the houses around hers had been demolished but Tilly still held out she barricaded herself inside and when people would approach the house she would throw stones and bricks at them in October of 1929 the police entered her house and they moved everything she owned out into onto the sidewalk that night she slept inside on the bare floor the next day though she gave in and moved out when her house was demolished it ended up being where the cornerstone for the London Terrace Apartments was laid they think later on Tilly Hart maybe got her moment of vindication though because Henry Mandel the man who had torn down her house and evicted her ended up being ruined by his building project the building cost 25 million dollars to build and it went into default by 1933 just a Fears after it was finished Mandel himself had to declare personal bankruptcy with debts of 14 million dollars today that would be about 220 million dollars now you’re going to continue north to 25th Street and look directly to the right of the High Line then press play the building to your right on the north side of West 25th Street was built for the RC Williams wholesale grocery company RC Williams started off small as a family-run store down in lower Manhattan in 1809 their original location was on Maiden Lane they seemed to have done really well for themselves because by the time this building that you see in front of you is constructed in 1927 they were wealthy enough to employ one of the top architects in the country Cass Gilbert you may be familiar with some of Gilbert’s other better known work like the US Supreme Court in Washington DC or here in New York the Woolworth Building and the Alexander Hamilton custom house if you know his other work you might be a little bit surprised when you see this building it

doesn’t have any of the ornamentation that’s on his better known works it’s very very plain but this was done on purpose simplicity was the goal Gilbert once said there is something very fine about a great gray massive building all one color all one tone yet modified by the sunlight or shadow to pearly gray of wonderful delicacy when you put it that way it does sound really nice the building today houses avenues an upscale private school tuition at avenues runs close to $50,000 a year the school made headlines a few years ago when Surrey crews began attending now you’re going to walk north to West 26th Street and you’re going to look West all the way to the end of the block press play as you look down the block you should see a large building with rounded corners this building is called the starett Lehi building and was originally used as a warehouse and a freight terminal there were spots for trains to drive right into the ground floor of the building it was built in 1932 as a joint venture of starett real estate ventures and the Lehigh Valley Railroad the building is every bit as big as it looks it has about 26 million cubic feet of space aside from its size the building is noteworthy for being very attractive particularly for a warehouse the lines of the building and the nice rounded corners give it a graceful appearance it was built on the site of the Lehigh Valley Freight terminal the building had hard times shortly after completion due to the Great Depression starett real estate was bought out but the Lehi railroad held out until 1944 the building has changed owners many times since then but the current tenants include Tommy Hilfiger USA and Martha Stewart Omni media now continue walking north to 29th Street look out to the right and you’ll see the u.s. mail distribution center then press play the building that you see one block over is where most of New York’s mail is processed less now than it used to be maybe but it’s still a high-traffic facility the center had a very serious scare back in 2001 when it processed mail for five New York media outlets that had been laced with military-grade anthrax bacteria this happened just one week after 9/11 New York was already on high alert in this caused a widespread panic the mail distribution center is a little rough looking on the outside these days but they actually have one of the largest green rooftops in New York City the building is on the site of the former Hudson railroad depot the West Side train lines originally accommodated both passengers and cargo but in 1864 Cornelius Vanderbilt bought the Hudson Rail Road as he gained control of all of the rail lines in New York City he decided that all passenger trains should come down the Harlem line where writers would disembark at his new station Grand Central Depot before the switch however the Hudson railroad depot had many passengers come through including a newly elected Abraham Lincoln with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln it was his first trip to New York as president just four years later mourners accompanied Lincoln’s body in a procession from City Hall where he’d lain in state to the Hudson railroad depot this was the starting point for a cross-country trip to bring Lincoln’s body back to Springfield Illinois his hometown now you’re going to walk north through the newest section of the High Line while this part of the park is finished the surrounding area very clearly is not what you’ll see the most of off the High Line is construction projects this entire area is undergoing a complete transformation brought on in part by the High Line’s popularity what you’re what going to walk through is known as the Hudson Yards redevelopment project this is the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States New York City hasn’t seen a development this large since Rockefeller Center was built in the 1930s it’s estimated that the project will employ twenty three thousand workers though this development is a long way from being completed it will eventually change the entire face of this pocket of Manhattan it’s ultimately going to include more than 100 shops restaurants a public school 5,000 residences a hotel and a cultural space when it’s completed they anticipate over 24 million visitors a year it’s really amazing to think that this came about in part from a park created on some old rail tracks that no one thought were useful anymore success of the High Line has prompted

other cities like Philadelphia st. Louis and Chicago to consider similar projects one writer referred to this trend as the High Line effect continue walking the High Line as it curves around the Hudson Yards development site try to picture what this area is going to become with new towers and shops and public spaces when you get to the end of the High Line looking out at the river press play well you’ve reached the end of the High Line it’s hard to believe that the first part of this park only opened in 2009 especially considering the massive changes it’s brought to the area and the millions of visitors it gets every year come back and visit again sometime the High Line can look very different depending on the season or the time of day that you go thank you so much for joining me check out free tours by foot comm for our pay what you like walking tours of New York Washington DC New Orleans Boston and many other great cities we’ll see you next time