MNN Galleries

12 astounding aqueducts

By: Matt Hickman on July 22, 2015, 11:21 a.m.
Old Croton Aqueduct or the High Bridge in New York City

Photo: H.L.I.T./flickr

9 of 14

Old Croton Aqueduct / High Bridge

A marvel of engineering that enabled rather pungent 19th century Manhattanites to bathe under running water for the very first time, the gravity-fed Old Croton Aqueduct was a game-changer of the highest order when completed in 1842. Goodbye unsanitary conditions, hello showers and public swimming pools.

And while most of NYC’s early water distribution system traveled underground through a network of underground tubes along its 41-mile journey from then-bucolic Westchester County to the Big Apple, it emerged in a most spectacular fashion via Roman-style stone arch bridge at the point where the aqueduct crosses over the Harlem River from the Bronx and into Manhattan at Washington Heights. One part aqueduct bridge, one part pedestrian promenade, High Bridge (straddling the Harlem River at 123 feet, High Bridge lives up to its name) was a functional aqueduct bridge up until 1958; it remained open as a pedestrian footbridge until the early 1970s when it was shuttered following a period of prolonged period of neglect. In June 2015, a spiffed-up High Bridge — it's the oldest surviving bridge in New York City, by the way — reopened to pedestrian and bike traffic for the first time in over 40 years. In addition to sauntering along High Bridge’s community-connecting walkway, history buffs can also follow the route of the subterranean aqueduct along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail.