Among the oldest surviving concrete bridges in America, this is the first and oldest concrete bridge in Ohio. It is a rare Melan type arch bridge, designed and built by the American representatives of the patented Melan technology at the time. The beautiful original railings on this bridge were replaced in 1949, but otherwise the bridge retains good integrity.
Above: Historical photo of newly completed bridge.
Above: Historical photo showing bridge construction, with the steel reinforcing beams visible in place on the bridge.
Above: Detail of original railing.
Above: Cross section drawing of bridge from historical article on bridge.
Information and Findings From Ohio's Historic Bridge Inventory
The bridge carries 2 lane of traffic and sidewalks over a 2-lane drive in Cincinnati's Eden Park. The bridge is north of the art museum and west of an overlook of the Ohio River. To the west is a handsome brick-faced Victorian-style standpipe, part of the city's water system.
The 1 span, 117'-long arch is a Melan arch. It is plainly finished with paneled spandrel walls. It has metal tubular panel railings with concrete posts.
Replacement railings (1949). Rehabilitation (2005/06). Patching and coating arch, painted steel railings.
Summary of Significance
The Cliff Drive arch is a highly significant example of its type/design and believed to be the oldest concrete arch in Ohio, although it is a Melan arch, i.e., it has steel beams embedded in the arch, and is as much in function a steel arch as a concrete one. Melan arches were introduced during the early period of development of reinforced-concrete technology and were built in the U.S. from the mid 1890s to early 1910s. Although eventually surpassed by the use of the Ransome-system of twisted, deformed reinforcing bars, they are considered significant in the evolution of the technology. The bridge was designed by Fritz Von Emperger of the Melan Arch Construction Co., the leading American promoter of the technology, which was imported from Europe. The bridge was sensitively rehabilitated in 2006. The eligible recommendation of the prior inventory remains appropriate. "Closed spandrel arch bridges are the most basic of reinforced concrete bridge types. Closed spandrel means that the area between the deck and the arch ring was filled in. The spandrel wall actually serves as a retaining wall in the bridge, holding the fill material. Live loads are borne by the fill material and by the spandrel walls. The arch may be constructed either as a single structural element (barrel) or in separate parallel longitudinal ribs. The barrel arch design has some structural and visual similarities to stone arch bridges. The barrel arch is also sometimes faced with brick or stone, making it appear similar to a masonry arch bridge. This type of bridge is suitable for short span lengths. Closed spandrel concrete arches predate open spandrels, as the closed spandrel type harkens back to the stone arches that the earliest forms imitated. This type was not built for long as engineers realized that significant material could be saved and a reduction in weight could be achieved by eliminating the filled section. Hence, open spandrels were born. Filled spandrel concrete arches date primarily from the earliest decades of reinforced concrete (1890s through 1920s). They are not as common as many of the standardized bridge types built during this same era, such as concrete slabs and girders. They are significant because they are not common and represent the evolution of concrete technology. To be considered significant, filled spandrel arches should have integrity, through the retention of their character-defining features: arch ring, barrel, spandrel wall, railing or parapet, end posts, piers and/or abutments and wingwalls." [From: A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types by Parsons Brinckerhoff, October 2005]
The bridge is a rare type with an exceptional level of significance. It is among the most significant Melan arches in the nation.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Melan
Coordinates (Latitude, Longitude):
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