Yes, we started out on Saturday morning, October 23rd at 8:45, right near Gracie Mansion, and took to the river path northward - on the Bobby Wagner Walk. This walk was at the request of Jim Wacht, who was inspired by a recent walk and an article in the New York Times - but he didn't just want to set out on his own - strolling aimlessly!
So, he enlisted my professional and experienced services for something that is more than just a casual walk in the park. He didn't want to lose himself in the wilds of a city he hadn't seen - even though he'd biked around it numerous times.
Jim sent out e-mails alerting his friends to this great event, and urged them to join in the fun. Ultimately, there were 8 and myself - oh, and Cooper the dog! (And I should have taken a picture of that cute thing, because at first I wasn't sure a dog would do the distance, or not be a hindrance, but no problem!)
We first walked up along the East River - and it's a nice walk:
Walking toward High Bridge
But this area didn't always look like this. No way! Check this photo:
The Harlem River, looking south to the Washington and High Bridges circa 1890
Soon, however, on July 3, 1898, in fact, this way was opened as a special drive. No, not the FDR Drive, of course. But, can you imagine this: the city perceived a need by the wealthy for a race course for their personal horses (and some of these individuals had many of them) so tax-payer money - more than a million dollars in the 1890s - was spent to make this playground for them.
The Speedway was a tremendous engineering feat - for the amusement of the "upper class."
But, there was a great formal opening of the Harlem River Speedway. Once we got past the inconveniences of 125th St., 135th St., and were able to get back to the river again, the going was easy. We did remark, however, that it was surprising how un-busy the East River is - at least on Saturday morning. But after the Speedway was opened -
The members of the sporting set flock to the Speedway to see the races! Fort George Hill is in the background. (From an undated postcard - colorized)
Well, by the time we had walked all the way up - I realized we had missed what would have been the real river traffic: the crews, rowing on the river! I had visited the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse earlier in the week, and a young lady there told me that indeed this Saturday would be the busiest day of the week. But, maybe she meant that the rowers are early risers! We missed them. But, look at the gates. Quite an effect. And, of all people, the boathouse was designed by no other than Robert A. M. Stern Architects. Stern himself, while now the Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, was previously Professor of Architecture and Director of the Historic Preservation Program at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University. (Is it significant that this isn't Columbia's boathouse, but one that's shared by Manhattan College, NYU, Fordham, and the New York RowingAssociation? Probably not.) But it's so refreshing to see such developments happening up around Dyckman Street - where hardly anyone ever ventures.
Look at this marvelous, floating boathouse:
The Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse
So, perhaps the "high-flyers" of the 21st Century aren't equestrians, and are boaters instead. After all, it's much better for one's health - and is much cheaper than keeping horses!
Right next to the boathouse are we discovered Swindlers Cove - and another fruit, so to speak, of the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), founded by Bette Midler. We found a glorious little park:
Hmm. What have we here? Quite a lot, actually!
It is really a small park, but it does do wonders to relax and reinvigorate a walker on a trek.
- and there is a restroom there too, as well as many very comfortable places to rest and ponder where to go next.
And so we rested!
We are almost ready to really rest: to have lunch. But we must do what we have to do - tweet:
We actually had followers in cyberspace - cheering us on in our marathon quest to circumambulate the island! So, Meryl, Jim's wife and a travel writer herself, kept all apprised on our discoveries and progress toward our ultimate goal.
We had just come down the hill (in the background) from the railroad tracks, after lunch at the Indian Road Cafe, and were marveling at the Little Red Lighthouse.
Next Stop: Watch for my next installment!