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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

COLUMBUS STREET BRIDGE - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The COLUMBUS STREET BRIDGE was the first permanent bridge over the CUYAHOGA RIVER. Constructed in the spring of 1836, it promoted commercial development of Cleveland at the expense of OHIO CITY (CITY OF OHIO), leading to the "Bridge War" between the cities in that same year. The Columbus St. Bridge was built for $15,000 by a group of real-estate speculators, led by Jas. S. Clark, who were developing Cleveland Ctr., a commercial district at Ox Bow Bend in the FLATS. It provided a direct route to Cleveland Ctr. from the Medina & Wooster turnpike (Pearl Rd.). Given to the city of Cleveland on 18 Apr. 1836, the covered bridge was 200' long, 33' wide, and 24' high, with a draw at the center allowing ships to pass. Travelers could now bypass Ohio City entirely by crossing into Cleveland over the new structure instead of using the old floating bridge owned jointly by Ohio City and Cleveland. Seeing their trade diverted to Cleveland, Ohio City residents boycotted the new bridge, and in retaliation, CLEVELAND CITY COUNCIL had their half of the floating bridge removed in June 1836, instigating the so-called Bridge War.

Rallying to the cry of "Two Bridges or None," west siders resorted to various forms of retaliation, including an ineffectual powder explosion. On 31 Oct. 1836 a mob of Ohio City residents armed with guns, crowbars, axes, and other weapons set off to finish the destruction, only to be met by Cleveland mayor JOHN W. WILLEY† and a group of armed Cleveland militiamen. Three men were seriously wounded in the ensuing riot before the county sheriff arrived to end the violence and make several arrests. A court injunction prevented any further interference with the bridge, and the courts resolved the issue by ruling that there should be more than one bridge crossing. The Columbus St. Bridge stayed (an iron bridge replaced it in 1870), although it didn't prevent the collapse of builder Clark's real estate venture. Ohio City survived, but the bridge ended any hopes of its rivaling Cleveland.

Richard N. Campen. The Story of Ohio City (1968).

Last Modified: 14 Jul 1997 04:26:33 PM

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