Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Decades in the Making

Repairing the Stairs on the Wade Park Bridge

Wade Park Avenue Bridge

In 1899, Charles Schweinfurth designed this bridge, carrying Wade Park Avenue over what is now Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. It's one of four bridges he designed for the park between 1896 and 1899. This is often cited as the most impressive of the lot. For decades the stairs, allowing pedestrians access to the park, have been closed, too damaged to safely use.

Wade Park Avenue Bridge

This was the sign greeting pedestrians back in September, when I demanded Repair the Stairs on the Wade Park Bridge!

Guess what? Here's a hint:

Wade Park Avenue Bridge

Note: if Cleveland Area History was a glossy, high-production magazine, the photograph would be from the boulevard, and feature several people, skipping down the stairs, gauze flowing in the breeze behind them. But it's not, so you'll have to deal with my feet.

Wade Park Avenue Bridge

Was that not clear enough? This perspective should be more illuminating - the stairs have been fixed!

I confess, when I first drove by and saw the green hue of the stairs, I grumbled to my self. At 35 miles per hour, the green looked an awful lot like the hue of freshly poured cement. "Great," I thought, "someone took the cheap way out, rather than replacing the sandstone with sandstone, as they should have."

Stairs, Wade Park Avenue Bridge

I was wrong.

They did, in fact, do the work with proper materials. It's just that the new sandstone has a very different hue from the old sandstone. Perhaps it will fade to match the existing stone.

The project was sponsored by the Holden Parks Trust. The architects were Chambers, Murphy, & Burge. The contractor was M-A Building & Maintenance Co.

Repairing the stairs on the Wade Park Avenue Bridge Repairing the stairs on the Wade Park Avenue Bridge

Photographs taken in July, while the project was in progress, should illuminate the original construction methods used on this stairway. (I'm always interested in seeing how historic structures were built - it's an underdocumented subject area, and it can be useful in dating structures where the year of construction is unknown.) That said, I'm not sure quite what these images tell us.


This is but one example of the progress that we're making with historic preservation in Cleveland. More will follow in coming weeks.

9 comments:

  1. Nice! I drove by the stairs a couple of months ago and saw that they were closed. I was hoping they'd actually do something with them instead of just leaving that chain link fence up.

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  2. Outstanding! I have often lamented allowing such a lovely structure to sit in horrible disrepair! Created a sad commentary on the respect the city has for itself.

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  3. great, I have often criticized the neglect of our historic architecture in favor of "bold new visions" myself.

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  4. Great news! I've loved those bridges since I was a kid. Actually, my dad would always honk the horn as we drove under the bridge if there was no other traffic. We kids liked the echoey sound of the horn. Now when my brother and I bike under the bridge, we ring our bells. I'm happy to be able to use the park now, since in the 70s it was in disrepair and considered too dangerous. It was so hard driving by all that beauty and not being able to explore.

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  5. Chris, I can give you all the detail you want, but I will start by saying that the Holden Parks Trust spared no expense on this, phase 1, of a multi-stage restoration of this remarkable bridge. The sandstone will age to match the remaining original stairs (as you suggested) and the intent was to save far more of them, but as the irreparable ones were removed, adjacent stairs crumbled as well. Safety was a major factor and the price rose as more stairs were removed, but I believe we did the best we could, all things considered. You may have noticed that the entire bridge was cleaned at the same time. This was another feat unto itself and I'd be happy to share more of the dirty details with you off-line!

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  6. I'd love to hear more about the details involved - I'll message you privately about it - I suspect that my readers would, too.

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