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HLNEO - Chronology Page

Superior Viaduct

The timeline of structures at this location reflects our best information to date and is NOT guaranteed to be complete.

Structure #1

Bridge Type:Masonry Viaduct with Swing Section
Years Existed:1878-1922 (Remains Still Exist)
Background Information: The Old Superior Viaduct was Cleveland's first high level bridge across the Cuyahoga River to join the East and West sides. The viaduct was opened on December 27th, 1878 and was condemned in 1920. The Superior Viaduct consisted of semi-circular stone arches and a swing span in its center. The bridge also had streetcar tracks and sidewalks. There were store fronts at viaduct level. There was a lot of controversy over the building of the bridge. Some wanted the bridge while others did not. Work on the Superior Viaduct began in March 1875. Many piles were used for the foundation of the bridge, so much that if the piles were to be laid end to end, they would have ran for forty miles. The beginning of the semi-circular masonry arches were began on May 20, 1875. The viaduct consisted of 8 masonry arches with a 83 foot span and two arches with a 97 1/2 foot span, plus retaining walls. The masonry work was 1,382 feet long and 72 feet high (above the pile foundations). Over two million cubic feet of Berea sandstone was used in the project. The pivot swing-span was 332 feet in length. The viaduct's total length was 3,211 feet and was 86 feet above the river. When the arches were being completed, all of the abutments and piers settled from two inches to four or five inches. Very slight additional settlement occurred from its opening. A few years after the completion, Cleveland tried to open the river channel west of the center pier of the draw span, which was apart of the original plans. Pier number eight, settled several inches, thus the city stopped. No further settlement occurred. In 1909, the city bridge engineer observed cracks near the center of the arches varying from 1/2 to 1/4 inches and diminishing towards the spring line. These were caused by settlement. The city bridge engineer stated that the cracks did not effect the safety of the viaduct. The viaduct was to carry a load of one hundred pounds per square foot of roadway with a factor of safety of 5. The swing span was open 3,600 times a year in 1909 and took between 4 to 6 minutes to open or close. The viaduct cost $1,574,921.32 (minus the right-of-way costs). The right-of-way cost over $600,000. Source: Bridges of Metropolitan Cleveland