Generational Change

That’s the Rocky River Bridge on Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio. Lakewood is a western suburb of Cleveland and Detroit Avenue was originally the Detroit Road, running west from Cleveland to Michigan. Actually, that’s two of the Rocky River Bridges: the unreinforced-concrete arch bridge in front is the 1910 bridge, the fourth on or near this site; the Baltimore (subdivided-Pratt) truss beyond is the 1890 third bridge, which had been declared unsafe in 1908 and was torn down fairly soon after this photo was taken. The photo is listed as 1910-1920, but since construction on the new bridge seems to be not quite complete, it’s probably from the beginning of that range.

The fact that the old bridge was a Baltimore truss matters only aesthetically: that kind of truss always looks a bit ungainly, as opposed to lattice or Warren trusses, which tend to be a lot prettier. In engineering terms, it’s not important, but in this photo the arch bridge is being directly contrasted to its predecessor.

The fourth bridge met the same fate as the third: when it was found in the 1970s to be deteriorating, it was replaced by the fifth bridge (1980), which is a frankly boring plate-girder highway bridge. I suspect that if the fourth bridge had somehow (better maintenance?) made it to 1990, it might have been repaired rather than demolished; if maintenance had been better, the third bridge might have survived a bit longer, but the increase in loads from cars and trucks at the beginning of the twentieth century probably doomed it no matter what.

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