The stretch of Manhattan’s West side between Chelsea and the West Village was not always the trendy area known today as the Meatpacking District, on the contrary. Up until the mid 1980's the area was home to car repair shops, derelict warehouses and, you guessed it, meat markets and wholesaler who until 1980 received many of their wares via train directly to their door. That train ran on what is now known as the Highline.
Train service to the area was halted in 1980 and the elevated tracks were scheduled for demolition soon after and likely would have been, had it not been for local businesses that had an interest in keeping the rail service going. Disputes as to whether to demolish or not went on for almost twenty years until two locals, Robert Hammond and Joshua David, took an interest in the abandoned structure and decided to climb up and take a closer look.
What they found was a verdant oasis in the midst of Manhattan, a late deco style piece of architecture that ran between warehouse building and floated above 10th avenue, providing some of the most stunning vistas of Manhattan skylines while lush wild flowers and tall grasses buffered the noise from the streets below.
In 1999 the duo, along with other supporters founded Friends of the Highline, the not-for-profit entity that would be credited for the redesign, development and eventual construction of Manhattan's only elevated garden.
Permitting, fundraising and planning took well over ten years and it was not until 2003 that a design competition was held to select the architecture and landscape firms to create the space. Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations respectively, began work in 2006 and the first stretch of the Highline from Gansevoort to 20th Street opened in 2009 with a second leg to 30th street following by 2011.
Since it's opening, the Highline has not only become a popular spot for locals looking for a break from the hustle and bustle on the streets below. The elevated walkway has become an outdoor art gallery where the city itself and select artworks are always on display.
It was to a large extent the Highline itself that inspired the design and construction of several important pieces of architecture that would hug its path and provide new upscale living and workspaces in an area that before was derelict and of little cultural value. Today, the Meatpacking District is one of Manhattan's most sought after areas and an architectural treat.
Add to architectural marvels the beautifully scaped plantlife with a wide array of plants that range from being local in origin to plants whose seeds might have blown off the passing trains and settled here from places as far away as Georgia. The care invested in this urban landscape makes the Highline a year round destination for locals and visitors alike and if you've never been, I highly recommend you include the Highline in your next visit to Manhattan.