Why the Cleveland Guardians? This is one bridge per stadium
Forget the Marvel Universe crew of misfit space travelers.
The Cleveland Goalies, who today are the face of Cleveland Baseball Club, are deeply rooted in the city’s history.
It’s a mere coincidence that these Guardians keep a watchful eye on the team who now claim them as their mascot as they stand guard atop the Hope Memorial Bridge.
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When the bridge was completed in 1932, the Ball Club was not playing at the Carnegie and Ontario corner. At the time, the team’s home was the old League Park, well east of the Cuyahoga River.
Originally called the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, discussions about building a second span across the river began around the turn of the century.
It is almost a mile long and was designed to carry both cars and streetcars, although a lower level for vehicles was never completed.
The father of the bridge’s last namesake – the late comedian Bob Hope, who grew up in Cleveland – was a stonemason and helped build the span connecting the city’s east and west sides.
But – like the ball club – this is no ordinary, boring bridge.
Engineering firm Wilbur J. Watson & Associates, with consulting architect Frank Walker, moved away from the norm of the time by curving the bottom edges of the trusses and adding the famous Guardians, giving it a modernist architectural atmosphere.
The design included four massive stone pylons with eight Art Deco-style stone figures nicknamed the Traffic Keepers that separated it from the other spans of the time.
The gigantic stone-faced statues sculpted by Henry Hering, whose iconic work is also found in Cleveland’s famous Severance Hall, each contain a different vehicle.
There is a hay wagon, a covered wagon, a stagecoach, a passenger car, a dump truck, a concrete mixer and a pair of two other trucks.
The architect’s intention was to celebrate the progression of transportation from the simple hay cart to the modern automobile and truck of the era.
John Grabowski, chief historian of the Western Reserve Historical Society and professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, said researchers recently examined the mysterious trucks on two of the pillars and found one to be an exact replica of ‘an electric truck from the 1930s.
The Guardians of the Bridge have been a popular symbol for the city and artists over the years and now the Ball Club, one of the guardians of the statue at the east end of the bridge, is only one Daniel Johnson Jr.’s very long throw from right field.
Grabowski, who is also editor of “The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History / Dictionary of Cleveland Biography,” said the bridge was truly a “great structure” when he opened and celebrated Cleveland’s position as one of the greatest. cities of the country at the time and its role as a trade and transport hub.
It came after the completion of Union Terminal and the city’s iconic theater district on the eve of the Great Depression.
“It really has become iconic,” he said. “The statues have become as close to a symbol of the city of Cleveland as anything next to Terminal Tower.”
Learn more about the Cleveland Guardians’ name change
Craig Webb, who had a soft spot for the Cleveland Spiders (Webb, y’know?), Can be reached at [email protected]