Mother-daughter members Doris and Carolyn Louth share a devotion to the High Line that brings them closer despite the 1,300 miles between them. Carolyn, a relatively new New Yorker who has extolled the High Line since efforts began to transform the elevated railway into a public park, has recently joined the Highliners, a group of dedicated supporters whose monthly contributions sustain the High Line year-round. Doris – who resides in Louisiana – received a gift membership from her daughter as a birthday present in 2010 and has renewed her annual membership ever since.
Friends of the High Line: When did you first hear about the High Line?
Carolyn told me about it after she moved to New York City with her husband, Eric, in 2005. I remember hearing the excitement in her voice as she told me about the project to transform an abandoned, elevated freight line into a public park on Manhattan’s West Side.
I remember a constant chatter about the High Line that grew steadily in volume and into conversations akin to folklore. “You know, the tracks on the west side, abandoned and totally overgrown – utter wilderness – they’re trying to preserve it.” And of course, everyone seemed to have a friend who had snuck up there.
Carolyn delighted in pointing out portions of the elevated track during my first visits to see her in New York and her enthusiasm was infectious. It wasn’t long before I too wanted to know more about this project called the High Line, especially as it related to preservation and revitalization efforts closer to home. Just as the Promenade plantée in Paris inspired the High Line, I hope that the High Line will inspire the Lafitte Corridor in New Orleans.
You followed the park’s progress for so long. What was your first visit like?
I first walked the High Line on June 9, 2009 – the very first day it opened as a public park. As I approached the Gansevoort stair, I remember thinking that I should take the steps very deliberately, so that the park’s grand reveal would be that much grander. The ascent felt euphoric, but I was even more elated once I was standing atop the tracks – I felt less like I was 30 feet above the street and more as though I had been transported to a heavenly landscape.
Six months later, I visited Carolyn and Eric, who were living in an apartment near the High Line, and I could see the park from their living room window! It was during that visit that I took my first steps from the 16th Street stair – like an astronaut – onto the elevated park. Most of all, I remember the landscaped beauty and serenity in stunning contrast to the streets below, and how much I enjoyed seeing the sparkle in my daughter’s eyes as we explored the park that day.
Why do you continue to support the High Line?
Well, as a transplant to New York City, the very splendors that drew me to this city can also be oddly disheartening because they are so much larger than my lifetime and can make me feel like the city’s greatness is immutable. But the High Line happened while I was here, and I am happy to be a part of it (or at least privy to it). When I am not raving about the High Line, I work as an art director and strategist, and it is from a design perspective that I am most impressed with this “park in the sky.” Yes, I became a Highliner to show my ongoing admiration and to support a beacon of social innovation, but also because, compared to Central Park and the Woolworth Building, the High Line is like me – New-to-the York!
The High Line is dear to my heart because of the special moments I share with my daughter there. Together, we can see its seasons bloom and fade. We can compare thoughts on the latest public art on display. And we can revisit our favorite spots, mine being a cluster of birches at the southern end, which I have watched grow from slender saplings into beautiful young trees over the past four years. Here, I am reminded of my own childhood as my parents had a white birch tree in their yard when we lived in Rhode Island, and I feel a sense of home when I can relax in the shade of their branches with my own daughter. I continue to support the High Line because I want others to experience the joy and peace I feel whenever I go there.
This story first appeared in the fall 2013 issue of High Line Magazine. We recently caught up with Doris and Carolyn, and we're delighted to report that their family is about to get a little bit bigger: Carolyn and Eric are expecting their first child this spring!