Friday, December 2, 2011

Mystery Painting: Win a Signed Copy of Hidden History of Cleveland!

Under the Bridge by Willard Combes

Since I first saw this watercolor painting, Under the Bridge by Willard Combes in the book Masterworks from the Cleveland Artists Foundation, I've liked it. The image, painted in the 1930s, is said to be of a Cleveland neighborhood. But where, exactly, is that neighborhood?

The combination of a high-level bridge and residential street ought to provide enough information for one to identify the site where Combes found this composition - there aren't that many high-level bridges in this town - yet it remains unknown. The various maps available through the Cleveland Public Library might contain the clues you need.

Be the first to identify the site, either by posting a comment here or to the Cleveland Area History Facebook page, and you'll win a signed copy of Hidden History of Cleveland. If you can, a link to the map showing the location would be most helpful for the rest of us


  1. A friend, who's a civil engineer specializing in historic bridges, writes: "I believe that is a concrete arch bridge over the the Little Cuyahoga River, just north of downtown Akron. I think it was called the North Hill Viaduct. The neighborhood is still there, I don't know the name but East North Street goes through there. The road this bridge carried is North Broadway..." Here are some shots of the viaduct:

  2. I really want to believe that we have a winner - but I'm not completely sold on it.

    The shape of the bridge and its details are consistent with the painting. And the reddish building with the tower in the distance could well be the one see to the far right in this postcard. But the details on the Sanborn fire insurance maps don't quite add up.

    This page illustrates the best match that I've been able to find, on Lods, just to the right of the bridge. The artist would have been looking south. Here's a detail, rotated somewhat to include just the houses in question.

    I can believe that the two houses to the left in the painting are the ones to the right on the map detail. But the houses to the right - I'm not so sure.

  3. I know it's not in Cleveland, but I also think it is the North Hill Viaduct, which carried North Main Street. I think that the houses are on E Lods Street. Both the viaduct and the houses are no longer there.

  4. Seems the people in the pic are black, which would be consistent with the neighborhood under the viaduct in Akron at that point in time, it was right off of Howard which was Akron's black mecca at the time. Again though I'm pretty sure the houses immediately under there were destroyed in the flood about 15 years prior to the time frame this was supposed to have been painted.

  5. It's not Akron , They said Cleveland !!

  6. It looks to me like its the high level bridge in the Flats. Sorry i don't have a better name for that bridge nor the road it's on. The watercolor is very similar to one that was in the exhibit "Watercolors from the Cleveland School of Art, 1936-1940" ,Western Reserve Historical Society Norton Gallery 2010. The WPA sponsored the depression era painting project. I have posted the other photo + unrelated one at URL listed. I'm sorry, as I was not as interested in local history at the time I snapped the photo of the paintings at my url, I neither noted title, year nor artist. However the artists were all associated with the Cleveland School of Art, and some well known.

  7. buckeye woodland area? down the hill in the hidden sections?

  8. I believe it to be the fulton rd bridge.
    this is my documented reference to compare.