The oldest active bridge in New York City isn’t Brooklyn Bridge. It is the Roman-inspired High Bridge that connects western Bronx to the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Further north there was a much older bridge that connected Manhattan to the mainland. King’s Bridge crossed over Spuyten Duyvil Creek that passed by the northern tip of Manhattan.
In the above 1906 photo of King’s Bridge, the crossing appears virtually unchanged from its appearance in 1766 when it opened as part of Albany Post Road. The creek was buried and rerouted in 1914, but are there any traces remaining of the city’s first bridge?
Each of New York’s flagship Olmsted-designed parks has its own pond or lake, intended for ice skating, fishing, and boating. Often these waterways predate the parks, with long natural and human histories relating to the development of neighborhoods around the parks. One such example is Van Cortlandt Lake in the Bronx.
In the midst of the fall season, it is an ideal place to capture the sight of the foliage as it changes colors with the cooling temperatures.
Prior to urbanization, Tibbetts Brook flowed south from what is now Van Cortlandt Park to Spuyten Duyvil Creek, a course marked on maps by Tibbett Avenue. In the proposal to daylight the buried section of this stream, the new course is envisioned a few blocks to the east.
The proposed stream path runs on the route of a railway that rolled through northwestern Bronx until 1980. Since then, portions of it have become a naturally occurring wetland. With a little cleaning up and a path following it, one can imagine abandoned spaces such as the underpass above having a creek followed by a walking path.
When a Circle Line tour boat circumnavigates Manhattan, tourists crowd on the deck to snap photos of Lady Liberty and other recognizable downtown landmarks. I prefer to crane my neck uptown when the boat travels up the Harlem River and Spuyten Duyvil Creek. That’s where the forgotten aspects of the city’s history can be seen, or not as in the case below.
Here’s a 1923 photo of the Johnson Iron Works from the My Inwood blog. The foundry sat on a peninsula on Spuyten Duyvil Creek halfway been the Hudson and Harlem rivers, facing Inwood Hill Park. In the backgrounds is the Palisades cliff of New Jersey. In the 1930s, the factory and the entire peninsula were eliminated. Continue reading
Next Friday, February 19th there will be a free public presentation at Hunter College on the proposal to daylight the buried section of Tibbetts Brook in the Bronx.
Should the proposal see the light of day, it would the most ambitious river restoration project in the state following the daylighting of Saw Mill River in nearby Yonkers. Although I will not be present at this event, my Parks colleague Marit Larson will be representing the agency. She will be joined by urban explorer Steve Duncan, who has crawled through the stream’s underground channel and presented a slide show outlining the benefits of restoring the stream. Continue reading