Filed Under Bridges

Forest Hill Park Footbridge

Supported by a steel superstructure and faced with Euclid bluestone quarried nearby, Forest Hill Park Footbridge traverses Forest Hill Boulevard in East Cleveland on land that was once part of Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller's summer estate. Spanning 347 feet across a deep valley in the Dugway Brook watershed, the 48-foot-high pedestrian bridge was intended to nestle in the hilly landscape of the Heights (the westernmost foothills of the Appalachians) on Cleveland's east side.

Designed by Wilbur Watson and Associates in 1939 with consulting architects F. B. Walker and A. D. Taylor, Forest Hill Park Footbridge was built in 1939-40--the work of more than 1,000 men toiling for two years. The men were paid with Works Progress Administration funds as part of its plan to put unemployed Americans back to work on useful projects. Wilbur Watson was a nationally known civil engineer and bridge designer who also engineered the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge over the Cuyahoga River. Taylor, who planned Forest Hill Park for the Rockefellers, was president of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a protege of the Olmsted firm founded by Frederick Law Olmsted, the "father of landscape architecture" who co-designed New York's Central Park. Taylor's sensibilities are reflected in the picturesque bridge.

Over the years the bridge suffered from neglect. A wire fence "cage" to prevent pedestrian falls, marred its graceful span, while vandals broke and removed stones from its parapet. Park volunteers repaired this damage in 2021, helping to ensure that the footbridge remains a beautiful presence for park users.

Images

North Approach to Footbridge Autumn color creates a picturesque setting for the footbridge, viewed here from the north approach. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: November 6, 2020
Artist Rendering of Proposed Footbridge The graceful stone arch of the footbridge is reminiscent of similar efforts to separate vehicular and pedestrian traffic in parklands that were first popularized nearly a century before and extended through the influence of the renowned Olmsted landscape firm. Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: 1939
Lake Park Footbridge in Milwaukee Another Olmsted Bros. bridge design, that in Lake Park in Milwaukee, was completed in 1905. In spanning a roadway in this urban park next to Lake Michigan, it likely offered a template for Wilbur Watson's design in Forest Hill Park. Creator: Mr. MKE on Flickr, Creative Commons license
Construction of Footbridge Scaffolding supports the frame of what will become the bridge, and construction sheds and piles of bluestone may be seen past the row of cars. The arch spans 140 feet of the total length of 347 feet. Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: 1939
Newly completed footbridge The footbridge offers one of two links between the eastern and western portions of Forest Hill Park, which is bisected by Forest Hills Boulevard. Passing high above the roadway, it offers the type of grade separation long associated with the design principles popularized in the second half of the 19th century by Frederick Law Olmsted. Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: 1940
Forest Hills Boulevard in Winter Forest Hills Boulevard is one of five major auto routes that ascend the Portage Escarpment from East Cleveland into Cleveland Heights. The road's route through a valley avoids steeper grades to either side. Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: 1956
Damage to Footbridge Vandalism in the 2010s compromised the integrity and beauty of the footbridge. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: June 8, 2017
Repaired Stonework on South Side of Bridge After several years of vandalism on the south approach to the bridge along the Great Meadow, park volunteers performed substantial restoration work. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: October 21, 2021

Location

Metadata

J. Mark Souther, “Forest Hill Park Footbridge,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 15, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/479.