Cleveland’s Bridges

I was surprised how many bridges there are in Cleveland, as I’ve always considered it a flat city.  There are several bridges across the Cuyahoga River which flows through the city, but there are also many bridges elsewhere in the city.  These other bridges cross over railroad tracks or the highways or are railroads and highways crossing over regular roads.  This realization (that even flat cities have can have lots of bridges) is causing me to reconsider what bridges are significant.  For instance in the claim that Pittsburgh has more bridges than Venice, if Pittsburgh has more bridges because highway overpass bridges are included in the count then is that kind of cheating as there was no geological reason for those bridges?  In other words, when cities compete for who has the most bridges, it seems like it would only be fair to count the ones that exist because of geological formations.  On the other hand, this almost sounds like I am calling some bridges more natural than others, but as they are all man-made how can any be natural?  Anyway, this is something to ponder.

In the meantime, I’ll return to Cleveland’s Bridges.  I did not cross over any of the river bridges while I was visiting recently.  Instead, I went under them on the Goodtime III boat tour of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie.  As seen on the map above, the boat entered the river in the upper left-hand corner, traveled downriver for over three miles (though as the bird flies it was only about 1.75 miles), and turned around in the last “corner” of the river seen in the lower right-hand corner.  In the process, we passed under 13 bridges, while a 14th bridge swung out of our way.

While I call Cleveland a flat city, there are at least two significant changes in elevation.  One is located out by University Circle and though it continues farther out, I am most familiar with it because it separates the frats and some dorms of Case Western Reserve University’s southern campus from the rest of the campus.  This is a moraine formed by glaciers during the last ice age (or so I’ve been told).  The second elevation change is next to downtown.  The Flats district along the river is significantly lower than the surrounding areas, including downtown and whatever the neighborhood on the western side of the river is.


All the bridges we traveled under on the Cuyahoga River were interesting and unique, at least compared to the bridges in Pittsburgh.  About half the bridges were railroad bridges.  The railroads tended to travel along the flats and so crossed the river with very low clearance.  To allow the passage of larger vessels, such as the one we were on, these bridges raised and lowered like elevators.  On the other hand, the bridges carrying roads were very tall as they traveled at the height of downtown and the western neighborhoods.  This also meant that most of them were very long as they not only crossed the river, but also crossed the flats which were sometimes very broad.

This bridge was the only one of its kind on the river.  Instead of raising and lowering like all the other low clearance bridges, this one rotates in either direction to swing out of the way of boats.

Here was a railroad bridge higher than the others.  Though it still had the mechanisms for rising up, if it needed to, it appeared that our boat was short enough to pass under without this.  A car bridge passes over this bridge before passing over the river as well, however this one will be demolished in the near future, after the one under construction is finished.

These bridges were interesting as they were two railroad bridges right next to each other, which seemed rather odd.  My theories for this are that either the tracks belong to different railroad companies or one was built first and then the railroad grew, expanding to two tracks, and instead of replacing the bridge with one for two tracks just built a second one right next to the first.  Either way, it’s a sight you don’t see every day.

Though Pittsburgh’s Fort Duquesne Bridge is nicknamed “The Bridge to Nowhere” (see June 19th post), this Cleveland bridge deserves the title more as the road or railroad it used to connect across the river no longer exists.  I wonder why they keep the bridge in place, when its purpose is gone.  It seems to me that this could easily become a hazard as the bridge weathers and there is no reason to maintain it.  In the meantime, before it comes crashing down, it does make an entertaining sight.



And of course, since I was passing underneath the bridges, I had to take a shot at the undersides!

Maps are Awesome!

While talking with someone recently, we discovered we shared a seemingly rare love of maps.  Maps are truly awesome and useful tools and not just for figuring out how to get from one place to another.  Maps provide insight into what a place looks like, giving clues about the layout and geography of a place you’ve never been.  Street names and other labels can hint at the history of the place.  Historical maps show what a place looked like in times past.

I have used maps several times to help me with writing my blog and there are many more times when I should have gone to a map first. As I mentioned in the first Heth’s Run Bridge post, the G.M. Hopkins maps on Historic Pittsburgh are probably my favorite resource for Pittsburgh.  Heth’s Run Bridge presented many puzzles that the maps helped me understand.  I realized yesterday that I probably should have gone to these maps first when wanting to figure out which bridge remnant I saw from the Fort Duquesne Bridge (see June 19’s post).  While writing that post, I did a search on the internet, but came up with nothing.  The G.M. Hopkins maps came to the rescue, although there are two possibilities for which bridge the remnant belonged to.  The first possibility I found on the 1900 map.  This one was called the Union Bridge.  By 1929, the Union Bridge was gone and another bridge connected the Point to the North Side.  This one was called Manchester Bridge.  This bridge was demolished in 1970, by which time the Fort Duquesne Bridge was built (see June 19th post).  I made a few other discoveries about Pittsburgh while looking at the 1929 map.  First, Penn and Liberty avenues used to come straight through to Water Road which ran along the northern shore of the Monongahela River.  Today these avenues stop much further inland.  The second major discovery was that Point Park already existed in 1929.  It was significantly smaller than it is today, but it is there.

Google Maps helped me with identify the buildings near Lambeth Bridge (see June 28th post) that I didn’t take the time to stop and investigate while I was walking the bridge.  Several of the buildings I was able to identify from labels that Google Maps conveniently placed on the map.  The Parliament View Apartments weren’t labeled, but using Google Maps’s other wonderful feature–Street View–I was able to find a sign on the building identifying it.

The image leading this post is of another highly convenient map.  On my recent trip to Cleveland, I arrived Downtown 2 hours before the person I was visiting finished work.  We arranged to meet at their place of work, but I was only familiar with two or three of the streets in downtown Cleveland, and the meeting place wasn’t on any of them.  I had just decided to use my skills of logic to find it (which would have been feasible in this case as one of the cross streets was a numbered street and the other was called Lakeside) when I came across this map on a street corner.  It turns out that these maps are posted regularly around downtown Cleveland, which I thought was very considerate of the city.  It made the city feel like it welcomed visitors with open arms, engaging them in being engaged in the city.  Even though I had a plan for finding where I was going without a map, I prefer being safe rather than sorry, so I took the easy way out and used the map to figure out where I was supposed to end up.  I also used it to plot out how I could spend the time I had until my friend got out of work to cross at least one of Cleveland’s bridges over the river Cuyahoga.  I ended up getting distracted from this goal, but that is a story for another day….(see July 9 post)….