We covered a LOT of ground in our first day in New York City, so I’ve broken this up into a few blog posts. We started in SoHo, then wandered through beautiful Washington Square Park before exploring the West Village. In the late afternoon, we walked through the Meatpacking District and made our way back uptown to Hell’s Kitchen via The Highline. After a brief siesta in the apartment, we headed back out that night with my boyfriend’s colleagues to the Meatpacking, for dinner and drinks. After this series is over, I will never use the phrase”the Big Apple” again, promise!
The most interesting spaces have a good story that’s more than skin deep.
The High Line is an overpass built for freight trains moving meat and other produce from the Meatpacking District around New York and beyond in the early 20th century. Today, it’s a 2.3 km green walkway floating over Chelsea and the Meatpacking District in downtown Manhattan.
The best way to hold on to a city’s history as the times change is to transform spaces to meet modern demands. Ancient Greek temples survived in Rome if they were repurposed (with a few additions) as churches. A used space has value, and a place with value gets cared for instead of demolished. The High Line was built for business, but it has survived because it can be used for pleasure.
In 1900, there were more than 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants operating in the Meatpacking District. The trade relied on the freight trains and the adjacent Hudson River ports. When the shipping industry declined in the 1960s and as the interstate system was developed from the 1950s, the trucking industry grew and the need for freight trains decreased.
By 1980, the High Line ceased to be used as a railroad system. Nature began to reclaim the space, with weeds springing up between the tracks.
As the area’s businesses dried up or moved elsewhere, a neighbourhood full of empty warehouses and rarely-patrolled streets were left behind. The Meatpacking became a seedy area, synonymous with drugs & sex clubs, until the late 90s, when forward-thinking entrepreneurs, property developers and designers started moving in.
Diane Von Furstenburg was the major fashion designer to set up a flagship in the Meatpacking District, before it became the bars & boutiques mecca that it is today.
From trash to treasure
In 1999 the High Line was in danger of demolition. Joshua David and Robert Hammond formed the Friends of the High Line, and successfully petitioned to have the High Line preserved, and transformed into a the green walkway that sees more than 6 million visitors per year!
The High Line went from an obsolete relic to one of New York City’s most popular free attractions. Dotted with art works, coffee & food stands and filled with greenery, it is part art gallery, park and meeting place.
We started at the Meatpacking End of the Highline, but if I did it again, I’d start at the other end in Chelsea. We started with a drink at Santina, the Italian Riviera-inspired bar underneath the end of the High Line in the Meatpacking District, but it would be a perfect way to end your walk. If I’d known how gorgeous Santina’s interior decoration is, I would have asked to sit inside!
Near the end of the High Line in the Meatpacking are plenty of street food stalls, bars & restaurants in the surrounding cobble-stoned streets, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The High Line is more than just a green space. It’s a wonderful way to see the Meatpacking & Chelsea from a new perspective and enjoy the walk through an art gallery in the sunshine. I love the varied architecture in New York and the High Line provides the perfect viewing platform of the city’s many shapes.
This stadium seating turned the incessant New York traffic into a live show, by hovering the seating over a busy avenue. Watching the cars stream out below was surprisingly mesmerizing!