May 8, 1974: A giant blaze engulfed the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge and stunned citizens. The bridge had been a Valley staple since 1889. It was the main rail route across the Hudson and, in fact, the only bridge to cross the waterway at the time of its construction. The massive conflagration destroyed close to 700 feet of rail and effectively ended all travel over the bridge.
But the span refused to die completely. Though it sat an idle eyesore for 35 years, on October 3, 2009 its reconstructed carcass officially reopened as the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, the world’s highest and longest pedestrian bridge. The 1.28-mile span rises 212 feet above the water and attracts thousands of visitors (canines, too!) each year.
At noon on May 8, the Walkway hosts a commemorative event to mark the fire’s 40-year anniversary. Taking place on the eastern (Poughkeepsie) side of the bridge, the remembrance honors the Highland Fire District, the City of Poughkeepsie Fire Department, Mobile Life Support Services, Inc., and the New York State Park Police to thank them for their service to the community. Some of the responders who battled the 1974 blaze are expected to be in attendance.
Did you know…?
- Walkway Over the Hudson made not one, but two Guinness World Record attempts for longest single line of dancers (in 2012 and 2013)
- …and that the official adjudicator for the first attempt was none other than Danny Girton, Jr. from Fishkill?
- Walkway Over the Hudson has won several Best of Hudson Valley awards
- Walkway Over the Hudson paintings were the subjects of one of our “Where in the Hudson Valley” contests
- Likewise, steel from the bridge has been transformed into works of art
- The first wedding on the Walkway occured just one week after the park officially opened
- In December 2013, the Walkway launched its Web tour and officially connected the Dutchess Rail Trail
- Still, no word yet on whether our Final Word writer David Levine has conquered his fear of heights on the Walkway