The High Bridge made modern New York possible, the final link in an aqueduct that first carried pure water to Manhattan from upstate in 1842. It spans the Harlem River on stone arches in the style of a Roman aqueduct, crossing from 173rd Street in Manhattan to 170th Street in the Bronx.
Next Tuesday, the bridge will reopen to the public for foot and bicycle traffic after about 40 years.
“The quality of the work is phenomenal,” said Ellen Macnow, a parks department official who has worked on the project, off and on, for 18 years. “We had inspections before the work began, and found mortar that had crumbled, but the stones hadn’t moved. It was truly overengineered. It is so strong.”
In the early 19th century, Manhattan was in a crisis that could have choked its growth. Its freshwater wells were overpumped, frequently contaminated by brackish water or sewage. A cholera outbreak in 1832 drove the affluent out of the city; left behind were immigrants and blacks, 3,500 of whom died, 2 percent of the city’s population. […]