This constantly updated list of resources is designed to help people find information on a wide range of subjects, from urban greenways and public parks to the history of railroads and maritime transport in New York. I’m always looking for new sources, both historical and contemporary, so if you have a suggestion please email me via the contact form on this blog. For another superb reading list on landscape & urbanism, see Paul Van Meter’s Relevant Reading on VIADUCTgreene.org.
THE HIGH LINE
High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky. The full story of the project to save the High Line, written by the co-founders of Friends of the High Line, Joshua David and Robert Hammond. Filled with photographs, both archival and current. Read my review, “Nine Reasons to Read High Line.”
High Line Plant Gardens: Information about the garden design, sustainable practices, the annual Cutback, plus a plant list.
“New York’s High Line”: video (via YouTube) of a detailed and fascinating talk given June 16, 2010 — one year after the park opened — at the Walker Art Center, by Robert Hammond and Lisa Tziona Switkin, lead designer at James Corner Field Operations.
“An Aerial Garden Promenade: Nature and Design along the High Line” by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers. Excellent article about the development of the High Line, published in Sitelines, the journal of the Foundation for Landscape Studies, Spring 2010.
“The High Line’s Wild Gardens: Past, Present and Future”: Rick Darke’s Rail Yards Talk about Section 3 of the High Line. September 2011.
Archival Photos of the High Line: a good selection is here at SkyscraperCity.com in the article “The High Line Then and Now.”
New York Central’s 1934 West Side Improvement Plan on Railroad.net: Much of the text and some of the photos from the brochure outlining Robert Moses’ “West Side Improvement Plan” and the elevated railroad that became the High Line.
Wild Abandon and a New Frontier: Converting Vacant Railways Into Urban Greenways, by Mary Ashby Leavell. An excellent overview of four urban greenway projects around the world: the Bridge of Flowers (Shelburne Falls, MA), Natur Park Sudgelande (Berlin), the Promenade Plantee (Paris) and the High Line. The work is a Master’s thesis for a degree in Science in Public Horticulture.
The Cost of the High Line: the New York Economic Development Corporation publishes updated, official numbers on each segment of the High Line, including monies donated from the City, State and Federal government, as well as funds raised by Friends of the High Line.
“Urbanized”, A documentary by Gary Hustwick about the design of cities and trends in urbanism.
“The Social Life of Small Urban Places”: an original film by the great urbanist William H. Whyte, made as part of his Street Life Project, which looked at why certain elements of cities work for the people who live and work in them.
Landscape + Urbanism: an excellent blog by Portland-based landscape architect Jason King. Subscribe via RSS to get all his posts about new and interesting projects, along with King’s always insightful commentary.
Michael Kimmelman: the architecture critic for the New York Times is doing some of the best coverage on urbanism today. A former art critic and foreign correspondent who spent years writing about culture, political, and social issues in Europe, he has a multi-disciplinary approach and brings great humanism to his pieces.
Atlantic Cities: a website run by the company that publishes The Atlantic, that’s devoted to presenting and unpacking innovative ideas in cities across the world. The whole site is excellent but the Design section is worth subscribing to by RSS.
Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities, by Witold Rybczynski. A thought-provoking book about how we inhabit cities, with both historical context and new ideas about urbanism, by the author of the excellent A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century.
RAILROADS & MARITIME HISTORY
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, by T.J. Stiles. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read. Vanderbilt’s life begins in the steamship era and ends when railroads were king, and he was at the center of both transportation innovations.
All Aboard With E.M. Frimbo, by Tony Hiss and Rogers Whitaker. Packed with train lore and unforgettable stories, this book collects Whitaker’s New Yorker “Talk of the Town” pieces about traveling by rail around the U.S.A. and the world.
New York Waterfront: Evolution and Building Culture of the Port and Harbor, edited by Kevin Bone. An excellent book about the port of New York, filled with archival photographs.
Conquering Gotham: Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels, by Jill Jonnes. A comprehensive if somewhat breathless account of the construction of Penn Station and the tunnels under the Hudson River that provided an essential connection between Manhattan and the rest of the country.
Bridging the Hudson: The Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge and Its Connecting Rail Lines, by Carleton Mabee. A fascinating story of the construction of the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, the first bridge of any kind to be built across the Hudson River from New York to Albany. Today the bridge has been transformed into the Walkway Over the Hudson. The book is packed with photos and tells an important and colorful story about New York and its railroads.
The Port of New York: A History of the Rail and Terminal System from the Beginnings to Pennsylvania Station, by Carl W. Condit. This is an excellent book that’s now, sadly, out-of-print and hard to find. I had to read it in the New York Public Library. Condit refers to Douglas Haskell, “who once suggested that the key to understanding the history of New York is movement, movement on the water, on the surface of the land, above and below both land and water.” This masterly book delves into all of that history with great color and style.
The Rise of New York Port: 1815 – 1860, by Robert Greenhalgh Albion. Also out of print, this definitive, scholarly history provides the fascinating backstory of why and how the port of New York became dominant in the 19th century.
The Coming of the New York and Harlem Railroad, by Lou Grogan. Also out of print but available from the Danbury Railway Museum for $43.95.
NEW YORK CITY
Manahatta: A Natural History of New York City, by Eric W. Sanderson. One of my favorite books of all time, this heavily illustrated and beautifully designed volume matches 18th century maps and archeological history with modern data and computer models to provide an overarching and fascinating picture of Manhattan through the centuries.
Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan, by Phillip Lopate. An excellent book about New York’s waterfront, from east to west, by the wonderful writer Phillip Lopate, who walked the circumference and brings back a wealth of facts and stories about the people who made Manhattan’s waterfront.
Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted, by Justin Martin. A wonderfully well-written and surprisingly fresh (after Rybczynski’s definitive 2000 account) biography of Central Park’s creator, which positions Olmsted as an early environmentalist.
The WPA Guide to New York City: The Federal Writer’s Project Guide to 1930s New York, with an Introduction by William H. Whyte.
The Hudson River Guidebook, by Arthur G. Adams. A detailed anatomy of the Hudson River from Atlantic Ocean north to its source in the Adirondacks, with many maps, photos and illustrations.
Environmental History of the Hudson River: Human Uses that Changed the Ecology, Ecology that Changed Human Uses, Edited by Robert E. Henshaw with a Foreword by Frances F. Dunwell. Indispensable and authoritative guide to the Hudson River that addresses history, science and art in fascinating detail, with deep and impressive scholarly sourcing.
King’s Handbook of New York City: An Outline History and Description of the American Metropolis, by Moses King. A richly illustrated, marvelous early guidebook to New York that provides fascinating details about the port, railroads, businesses and institutions of art in the 19th century. Published in 1892, with more than 800 photographs.