This is an enormous high level deck arch bridge with attractive design details. The Historic Bridge Inventory references that the state designed the bridge, but the National Register Nomination, which appears more well-researched, states that the bridge is the design of Cuyahoga County engineer Alfred M. Felgate.
Above: Photo from Historic American Engineering Record showing original railing.
Information and Findings From Ohio's Historic Bridge Inventory
The bridge carries a 2 lane highway over the Cuyahoga River valley.
The 15 span, 1,133'-long, high-level bridge has seven 2-rib open-spandrel arch spans measuring from 181' to 90' long. It is finished with concrete balustrades, cantilevered deck section with brackets, incised-panel spandrel columns with arch caps, and incised panels at the piers.
The bridge was rehabilitated in 1989. No significant changes to integrity observed.
Summary of Significance
The Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge is NR listed (1986). There have been no significant changes to the bridge's status. The 1931 open-spandrel arch bridge illustrates the attention to aesthetic detail characteristic of the most successful bridges designed by the state bureau of bridges in the 1920s and 1930s. The setting allows for a high-rise arch, illustrating the architectural lightness and proportions of the open spandrel arch type to great effect. "The reinforced concrete open spandrel arch was first constructed around 1906. It was the dominant form for concrete bridges in the 1920s and 1930s. By eliminating the walls and fill material of the closed spandrel, dead loads were reduced and cost savings were seen in materials with the open spandrel. Aesthetics was another factor with the open spandrel. They had a lightness and visual appeal and were used in prominent or scenic locations. Open spandrel construction marked engineering prowess during the 1930s and 1940s. By the 1940s, the open spandrel concrete structure began to be supplanted by the more pre-stressed beam and reinforced concrete girder structures. Open spandrel arch bridges have pierced spandrel wall with no fill material, and the spandrel columns transmit dead and live load from the deck to the arch. The arch ring may be either solid (barrel) or ribbed. Open spandrel arch bridges require more formwork to construct than filled spandrel bridges. Open spandrel concrete arches, while not uncommon, are not as common as many other bridge types built during this same era. They are significant because they represent the evolution of concrete technology. To be considered significant, open spandrel arches should have integrity through the retention of their character-defining features, which include arch ribs, ring or barrel; spandrel; spandrel columns; railing or parapet; and piers, abutments, and wingwalls." [From: A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types by Parsons Brinckerhoff, October 2005]
Because of the early emphasis on aesthetics at the local and state levels, Ohio has an impressive assemblage of long and shorter open spandrel arch bridges dating from 1907 through World War II. Twenty-three of the 25 predate World War II. Compared with its population, this example has a moderate level of significance.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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