The High Line

New York, New York, USA

Redeveloped 2006

The Disappointed Tourist: High Line, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

The High Line was an elevated New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan that was opened in 1933 and connected directly to factories and warehouses, allowing trains to load and unload inside buildings without disturbing street traffic. The rail line closed in 1978, despite several attempt to reintroduce rail traffic, and the abandoned overgrown structure became a secret garden full of wild grasses and flowers amid the rusty railroad ties, beloved by urban explorers. The nonprofit organization Friends of the High Line lobbied against its destruction and sponsored a competition for its redevelopment. The resulting highly successful park was funded by a combination of public and private funds and was a collaboration between James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Piet Oudolf. The painting is based on an uncredited photograph on the High Line website.

Within a decade, a construction boom resulted in tall buildings lining the park and obstructing sweeping city views that the early visitor once enjoyed from the High Line. Giant shadows are now cast across the High Line’s gardens, now perennially in shade. Gone too are the wilderness of the pre-developed elevated park and the wide-open views of New York City history. Anon.