Regular Midwest Guest readers know of my fascination with bridges and might remember stories I originally did about Cleveland's King Bridge Company and a couple of the company's pretty little bridges on Detroit's Belle Isle.
I've long wanted to check out a few of the company's bridges in Cleveland, and my chance to do that finally happened earlier this month as I ran poor Tim all over the city's downtown looking for a few of the company's bridges that still stand and, in a couple of cases, still carry traffic over the river in Cleveland's industrial waterfront Flats area.
The Cleveland-based bridge company started by Zenas King in the mid-1800s helped move the country's bridge building from an industry of scattered local craft businesses into a national manufacturing industry by the late nineteenth century.
The company began to struggle in the twentieth century and eventually folded in 1923.
Iron bridges deteriorate as they age, and many of the spans built during the King Bridge Company's heyday no longer exist.
Here are a few great examples of the King Bridge Company's work still standing in Cleveland.
The Detroit-Superior Bridge is one of the city's most recognizable spans and links the east and west sides of the city.
Built in 1917 and 1918, the bridge has two decks that originally served to separate streetcars from automobile and pedestrian traffic. Its 93-foot height over the Cuyahoga River also allowed cars and boats to traverse the area at the same time without requiring traffic delays caused by requiring prior bridges to open in order to allow river traffic to pass through the area.
The bridge's combination of a central steel arch flanked by a dozen decorated concrete approach spans makes it distinctive and beautiful.
The annual Cleveland Design Competition seeks ideas for better using under-utilized spaces in the city. The 2012 competition, which recently announced winners and hosted a closing reception, generated some cool ideas for utilizing the bridge's currently unused lower deck for public use.
It will be interesting to see if any of these ideas come to fruition, and I'm hoping some day to get the chance to walk the bridge's lower span during one of the occasional days it is open to pedestrians and bicyclists.
The Center Street Bridge literally sits in the shadow of the larger Detroit-Superior span, and it was fun to try to get a unique shot of the big bridge while crossing the smaller span.
Built in 1901, the Center Street Bridge is one of the city's oldest bridges and it is a rare bobtail swing-style bridge. The span is a moveable bridge that pivots, rather than lifts, to allow river traffic to pass through.
We weren't able to see the bridge move for river traffic during our visit, but we were able to drive and walk over the short span.
Cleveland also has several railroad bridges that, while no longer in use, stand in their open position and pointing skyward.
Overgrown vines cover the bridge and, for some reason, a bust of Viking explorer Leif Ericson dedicated in 2001 by the Scandinavian Community of Northeast Ohio sits at the foot of the upraised bridge.
I'll be keeping my eyes out for more King Bridges as we travel. Do you know of any King Bridges still standing that I should put on my list to check out?
Want to learn more about Cleveland's history, waterfront Flats and bridges? Try checking out Cleveland Flats (Images of America) by Matthew Lee Grabski or Cleveland Then and Now by John J. Grabowski and Diane Ewart Grabowski.
© Dominique King 2013 All rights reserved