The High Line, part II

Day 2: “The High Line,” a talk by Robert Hammond, part of the Penny Stamps lecture series at the Michigan Theater through the U of M School of Art and Design.

My friend Cookie warned me that everything hosted by U of M starts 10 minutes late. She calls it “Michigan Time.” I should have listened to her. I did get there early enough to run into a friend and get the seats that Katie requested so I guess it all worked out.

The lecture itself was great. After a somewhat pretentious and rocky start, they had someone introduce the person who introduced the speaker, Robert Hammond gave a lively and entertaining talk on the High Line park in New York City. As Katie explained the High Line is a mile and a half long park built atop an old elevated train line in southwest Manhattan. It’s definitely one of my stops the next time I go to New York.

While the park looks amazing I was also very interested in the history of the train line. Hammond explained that the High Line was originally constructed because so many people were killed by the train that ran along 10th Avenue that New Yorkers began to call it Death Avenue. The city even hired a man to ride a horse just ahead of the train to clear pedestrians out of the way. He was called the Westside Cowboy.

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The Westside Cowboy, 1934

In the end that wasn’t all that effective so the city built the High Line.

Hammond said that he fell in love with the steel riveted structure and became active in trying to save it when he read an article in the New York Times in 1999 about the line being scheduled for demolition. He went to a community board meeting and then called the railroad company. The company agreed to take him on a tour and he was immediately amazed by the strip of wildflowers that snaked their way through the heart of the city.

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Robert Hammond and the pre-park High Line

He began his quest to make it a park. He was very clear that he had no plan, no money, and no relevant experience. For Hammond this project was not exactly about preservation but about re-purposing. He wanted to save the old structure but at the same time create something new, something that every community that the line intersected could enjoy.

From what Hammond said I think that he totally succeeded. The park looks awesome and I can’t wait to see it for myself. Hammond said that he loves the High Line because, “it creates a different way of seeing the city.”

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The High Line Park, 2011

I tip my hat to Hammond and everyone who helped and supported this project. If you want to learn more about the park or look at more awesome photos go to: http://www.thehighline.org/

Here’s hoping that this weekend’s activities are as cool as the High Line.

(I did duck out of the lecture a few minutes early to meet Anne and go see the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’m not going to write about that, however, except to say that the Swedish version was better.)

~ Kara

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