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Unusual Bridges In And About Cleveland

There are a number of unusual bridges that deserve attention. An early one is the Warner Road stone-and-brick arch bridge over Millcreek, built in 1899. The arch has a 40-foot span. The road-way is 44 feet wide, with two sidewalks of 12 feet. Its overall length is 72 feet, 10 inches, exclusive of wing walls. Its location was a significant one in the early part of the century because it was near the center of Newburgh, which was then larger than Cleveland. In 1906 it was necessary to raise the sidewalks of the arch, since the grade of Warner Road had been raised. Stone arch bridges are becoming rare; so we should cherish those we have.

Generally bridges symbolize goodwill and enhance friendly relationships between communities. Cleveland has a bridge that stands as mute testimony to the opposite: fear prejudice, neglect, and violence. This is very remarkable per se, but the fact that it serves no useful purpose, and is barricaded at both ends, symbolizes the polarization of the communities it once served.

This bridge is the Sidaway Bridge, named after a short street that begins at Kinsman Road and ends at East 65th Street. Engineers were Wilbur Watson and Associate, with Fred Plummer, Chief Designer [Figure XXIX]. Upon its completion in 1931, this structure provided a simple solution for spanning an old gulley, the Kingsbury Run. Until the 1950’s children tripped over the bridge on their way to and from school. But, with a Polish community on the south bank and a black one on the north, a feud broke out. In July, 1966, someone set fire to the wooden deck and ripped out fifteen feet of the southern portion. The bridge now is considered a nuisance. Those who wish to cross the valley on foot go through the Garden Valley playfield created by filling in a portion of Kingsbury Run Valley as

The Sidaway Bridge over Kingsbury Run is Cleveland’s only suspension bridge.
Figure XXIX. The Sidaway Bridge over Kingsbury Run is Cleveland’s only suspension bridge.

part of the Garden Valley Project. [1] This bridge over the shops of the Shaker Rapid Transit could be dismantled and relocate. At one time, the Cleveland Metropolitan Park Board was interested in relocating it to the Bedford Reservation.

Julius Caesar was proud of the fact that his men built a timber beam bridge over the Rhine in ten days. During World War II the U.S. Army erected many a “Bailey Bridge” in a few days. But years ago, in Cleveland, a bridge was constructed overnight. The story, as narrated by William A. Stinchcomb in 1918, tells of most unusual proceedings:

Unique amongst the bridges of Cleveland is one that was constructed in a night over the Lake Shore and Pennsylvania Railroad tracks at the foot of West 6th Street (formerly Bank Street) in connection with a dispute which arose between the city officials of Cleveland and those representing the railroads, as to the right of the city to fill in the lakefront and make land opposite Lake View Park (now the site of the Willard Park Garage).

The dispute came to a head during the closing months of 1896, and the bridge was built between ten o’clock at night and dawn of the following morning, following a meeting of the City Council one Monday evening. It was the result of careful maneuvering on the part of Mayor Robert S. Mckesson and his aides. Material for the bridge, which was of wood, had been carefully cut and hidden at a convenient point, so that it might be speedily transported to the scene of action.

A Corps of Engineers was in readiness to superintend the work, and several large gangs of men from the city’s street repair department were held in hiding until the signal was given to get into action. They then swooped down on the railroad tracks at the foot of West 6th Street erected their timber, and by daylight a completed bridge spanned the tracks and gave access to a small fill of land north of the railroad right-of-way. [2]

Having won its point, the bridge did not last long. But the city continued to fill in the land, without any further interference from the railroad.

The original Harvard-Denison Bridge now belongs to history rather than the present. The bridge might be considered a World War II casualty, for the acid fumes from the valley severely corroded the steel. During the war, top-secret processing of uranium using corrosive hydrofluoric acid caused irreversible damage. The bridge was torn down in 1970. In its day it was considered an imposing structure. Erected in 1910 under the auspices of Cuyahoga County, it was one of the longest bridges in the Cleveland are. On 10 October 1910, Cleveland celebrated a County Centennial with yells of Chippewas, with the flag-raising by pioneer citizens and daring aerial feats. The week’s program included a military and historical pageant, a carnival, and dedications of the Harvard-Denison and Rocky River Bridges. The overall length of the Harvard-Denison was 3,23 feet; the length between abutments was 2,781 feet. It consisted of twenty-two steel deck truss spans-the longest being 153 feet. The width was 56 feet, with a 40-foot roadway and two 7-foot sidewalks. It was 100 feet above the lowest point in the valley.

Construction plans for the new bridge were made by the firm of Howard, Needles, Tammen and Bergendoff. The bridge, completed in 1978, was built with federal funds under the direction of the Ohio Department of Transportation but will be maintained by the county. The new structure occupies the same site as the old, except that the west end will be curved about 150 feet to the north, to a connection with Denison Avenue and West 14th Street, both of which will be relocated. The purpose of this design is to accommodate the Jennings Freeway, which will cross under a new span to connect ultimately with I-480 near Schaaf and the Van Eppes Road. The bridge is 3000 feet long.

The Clark Avenue Bridge was Cleveland’s longest. Built by the city in 1912, of steel truss construction, it had a total length of 6,687 feet. The bridge was really three bridges. The oldest comprised a series of pony through — trusses over the B. and O. tracks adjacent to Quigley Avenue. The west end connected to West Third Street and provided safe access to the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company’s plant. The east section, which included the river span, extended from Pershing Avenue to West Third Street.

The river span was a massive truss with the lower chord of pin-connected members. The balance of the span was of deck construction with deep built-up members and truss construction, designed to accommodate the tracks and take care of clearance problems. The concrete piers were short, with steel towers typical of viaduct construction. The west end and extended between West 14th Street and Quigley Avenue. This whole structure was demolished in 1980.

An outstanding example of a modern steel structure is a handsome bridge over East 222nd Street. This four-track bridge, built in 1959, in Euclid, Ohio, has the distinction of being the first welded rigid-frame railroad bridge in the United States. The bridge is divided into three parallel single-span structures. The center bridge carries the east-and west-bound tracks; each outside bridge supports an industrial track and four-foot sidewalks with steel railings. Structural steel elements comprise a series of welded frames of 91 feet. Five frames spaced on 21/2 feet centers were needed for each track, twenty frames in all. The frames support a composite reinforced concrete deck. Alloy steel was used to reduce the weight of sections and the thickness of material to be welded.

The bridge had clean lines, was economical to build, will be easy to maintain, and is free from columns on the underpass. The cost of approximately sixteen million dollars were divided between Cuyahoga County and the city of Euclid (85 percent), with the railroad paying the remainder (15 percent). The railroad is the designated owner of the structure. The overall design was worked out by the Osborn Engineering Company, in consultation with the bridge engineers of both the railroad and the county. Structural analysis was prepared by John B. Scalzi, and the late Ralph Scott and Gregory Chacos, with the assistance of Paul Montgomery from the Nickel Plate. The National Engineering and Contracting Company was the general contractor.

This advance in the art of steel bridge construction is due to the general acceptance of arc-welding. Cleveland has pioneered in this development, through the efforts of the James F. Lincoln Arc-Welding Foundation. The Lincoln Electric Company, which has been for many years a leader in arc-welding, is internationally famous.

A new type of welded structure is at the Snow Road Crossing of Engle Road and the former Big Four Railroad tracks in Brookpark. The new feature concerns the piers, which are inverted delta or V-shaped columns. This construction is economical, but unfortunately the bridge itself is at a skew to the roadway and railroad, which exposes to view a multiplicity of the supporting members. The design is best used for simple spans.Fabrication problems and poor welds have delayed the project for a year. However, it is to the credit of the county engineer that he was willing to try a new concept in design.

The Willow-Freeway, serving the southeast side, had a number of firsts to its credit. Extending from Broadway south to connect to Independence Road at Schaaf, the depressed roadway south has recently been upgraded to Interstate standards, for it is now a part of I-77. The section from Harvard Avenue south to Canal Road was the most expensive mile because of the four bridges in this section. The “cloverleaf” at U.S. Route 21 and Route 17 was the first in the state. The ornamental railing and post have deteriorated, and repair work has destroyed the designer’s intent. This pioneer cloverleaf is in sharp contrast to the new Interstate interchange just to the south of the aforementioned. This complexity of interchanges is an engineer’s dream (or nightmare). A part of the Outerbelt system, it is a 218-acre interchange at I-77 and I-480 in Independence. The Outerbelt takes a dramatic leap over Cuyahoga Valley just east of the interchange on a dual bridge, the third largest bridge in Ohio history. The thirty-span steel-girder structure is 4,025 feet long and rises 200 feet above the valley floor. It rest upon a reinforced concrete substructure, founded on piling. This bridge really consist of two parallel bridges one hundred feet apart. Designing engineers were Howard, Needles, Tammen and Bergendoff.

Work was started in 1972, and the structure was completed in the following year. The contracting firm of Vogt and Conant introduced several innovations in construction, in order to increase job safety and to speed erection of the steel. A Mantitowoc crane was used to lift the steel girders, weighing as much as 99 tons, as high as 200 feet and at a radius of 90 feet. The firm devised a concept of steel erection utilizing a work-access platform, work platforms, and a hoist-operated passenger elevator. The elevator delivered workmen to the steel work platform hanging between the twin bridges. The 20,000 tons of steel were supplied by Allied Structural Steel, Hammond, Indiana, and by Chicago Heights Steel Division of Allied Products, Chicago Heights, Illinois.

A somewhat unusual structure may be found about twenty miles south-east of Cleveland on State Route 8 over the Ohio Turnpike. It is a 216-foot, two-hinged steel trussed-arch, with box-girder ribs. It has a 28-foot roadway. Completed in 1955, this beautiful span received an American Institute of Steel Construction award. It was designed by Howard, Needles, Tammen and Bergendof.

Only the people who keep statistics will be interested to note that the approach span on the Main Avenue Bridge over the tracks south of the stadium was the longest plate-girder in the country in 1940, with a span of about 271 feet. Another record breaker was the girder over the Erie tracks on the I-77 bridge. Such is fleeting fame that one is not even aware of these tributes to the skill engineers, as traffic speeds over the bridge at expressway speeds.

All in all, Cleveland has its share of unusual bridges. In this connection, the “movable structures” over the Cuyahoga River should especially be remembered.

  1. Russ Musarra, "A Monument to Fear," in the Cleveland Press, (February 6, 1970).
  2. W.A. Stinchcomb. "The Bridge That was Built in a Night," in Bridges of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, p. 36.


Bridges of Metropolitan Cleveland Copyright © 2016 by Cleveland State University Michael Schwartz Library. All Rights Reserved.

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