High Line in operation

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Clay Grable
Photo by Andrew FraszLooking north into the Chelsea Market Passage, the former site of the Nabisco building, at dawn. Photo by Andrew Frasz

First-time High Line visitors may wonder: Does this park run into that building? Does this park go through that building? The High Line does, in fact, run through a handful of buildings. For those who expected their walk to be an exclusively outdoor affair, this impromptu inside view can prove surprising. But what really makes this arrangement so arresting is not the invasion of these buildings’ interiors, but rather those buildings’ accommodation of the High Line.

The truth is that most of these buildings were constructed alongside the High Line specifically to integrate with it. This design allowed the freight trains that ran goods along the High Line to stop in on the second level of these buildings for easy loading and unloading. Originally, many buildings welcomed the High Line inside their loading docks high above the street. Today, the High Line runs through only two buildings that were originally built to host trains: the Cudahy Packing Company building and the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) building.

Madeline Berg
At the height of its activity, the High Line was one of the city’s most prominent food distributors, delivering processed meat and baked goods to hungry New Yorkers. Photo courtesy of Kalmbach Publishing Company

As anyone who has had to pull off a Thanksgiving feast in a pinch knows, frozen turkeys can save you from familial shame, complaining guests, and a holiday meal of subpar take-out. Frozen turkeys also hold a special place for us here at the High Line, as they made up the precious cargo of the last train to ever run on the High Line.

In 1980, the railway’s final train made its way up the West Side, ending the more-than-century-long use of trains as a primary transport to and from the factories and warehouses of the Meatpacking District. While the trains began to fall into disuse in the 1950s with the rise in interstate highways and decline in manufacturing, there was a time when the tracks played an essential role in providing New York with food such as produce and meat, raw materials such as bricks and wood, manufactured goods, and other vital items, like Oreos.

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