High Bridge Tower

Structure/Property Name (Current and Original, if Different): High Bridge Tower

Street Address/Location: High Bridge Park, 172nd St. and Amsterdam Ave.

Town/City: New York

County: New York

Owner: NYC Department of Parks and Recreation


Architect/Engineer/Other Responsible Parties: John B. Jervis, Engineer

Historic Use: Tower to supply water to upper Manhattan.

Present Use: None

Typology: Water Tower

Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival

Period(s) of Construction: 1870-1872

Date of Decommissioning: 1949

Date(s) of Demolition: N/A

Structural System/Materials: granite masonry structure; copper roof; cast iron stair and water tank

Significant Alterations: Water tank removed, likely in 1949; 5 octave carillon installed in the belfry in 1958; roof and windows damaged by fire in 1980s, resulted in a $1 million restoration, considered unsatisfactory by preservationists; a more thorough restoration is currently contemplated.

Brief Architectural Description: The octagonal Tower consists of a base, a simple but high shaft, a louvered belfry, with conical roof surmounted by a lantern, spire and weather-vane. The rough cut stone base resting on a low footing is separated from the shaft by a shouldering of smooth faced stone making the transition from base of the tower to the shaft. The arched doorway is crowned by a massive horseshoe arch with heavy voussoirs carried on corbels at each side. It is a striking feature of the tower. Windows in the tower have handsome round arched drip moldings. The belfry contains a series of narrow round-arches louvered opening supported on large corbels. The conical roof above them likewise has a corbelled cornice.

Brief Statement of Historic Significance: The High Bridge Tower was the first tower of its kind to be built in NY and is currently the only remaining water tower. When it opened in 1872, Manhattanites viewed it as one of the most spectacular structures from which to gain views of the city and surrounding area. It was a site that people made trips out of and was marketed as such.  It was constructed in order to provide water pressure to the recently-developed higher elevations of Northern Manhattan, which could not be serviced by the existing gravity-fed system.


Accessibility to Public: No longer open for tours.

Landmark Status: Granted landmark status by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1967 (LP-0319).

Threats: General maintenance necessary, but no immediate structural threats.

Current Interpretation: Sign at High Bridge Park includes brief description of Tower and surroundings.


Historic Photo


Jervis, John B. Description of the Croton Aqueduct. New-York: Slamm and Guion, 1842. Google Books. <http://books.google.com/books?id=rr8OAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA13&dq=croton+ventilators&hl=en&ei=BQxrTcnhM8Gblgfnz-iAAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CEsQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false&gt;.

King, Charles. A Memoir of the Construction, Cost, and Capacity of the Croton Aqueduct. 1843. Google Books. <http://books.google.com/books?id=7JYJAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA181&dq=croton+ventilators&hl=en&ei=BQxrTcnhM8Gblgfnz-iAAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CEIQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=croton%20ventilators&f=false&gt;.

Kroessler, Jeffrey. The Old Croton Aqueduct: Rural Resources Meet Urban Needs. [Yonkers, NY]: Museum, 1992.

Landmarks Preservation Commission. High Bridge Water Tower. #5. New York, 1967. LP-0319.

Tower, F. B. Illustrations of the Croton Aqueduct. New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1843.



Andrew Maziarski


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