Filed Under Bridges

Sidaway Bridge

A Bridge over Troubled Neighborhoods

It still spans Kingsbury Run, connecting Cleveland's Kinsman Road neighborhood to the city's historic Jackowo Polish neighborhood. But no one uses the Sidaway Bridge anymore. Not since the 1966 Hough Riots when someone tore out planking from the walkway and attempted to set the bridge on fire. Shortly afterwards, Cleveland officials closed the bridge, and for fifty years it has waited patiently to resume its original purpose of bringing the people from these two neighborhoods together, rather than continuing to keep them apart.

It was not the first Sidaway Bridge. That one–the longest wooden bridge in Cleveland history–was a massive trestle bridge that stretched 675 feet across and 80 feet above the Kingsbury Run, connecting the Jackowo Polish neighborhood on the south side with the then largely Hungarian Kinsman Road neighborhood on the north. It was built as a pedestrian or "foot" bridge in 1909 by the Tom Johnson administration at the urging of three citizen groups from the two neighborhoods who believed, according to a Plain Dealer editorial at the time, that connecting the two communities–then largely white and ethnic–with a bridge would contribute to their mutual commercial and general welfare.

That bridge–initially called the Tod-Kinsman Bridge, but, within a year of its opening renamed the Sidaway Bridge after the new approach road that had been created during its construction–served that purpose for more than twenty years, and as well provided a convenient shortcut for folks on the north side of the Kingsbury Run to walk to Dahler's, a popular beer garden in the Jackowo neighborhood. In the late 1920s, however, the bridge's braced wooden framework became an obstruction for the Nickel Plate Railroad, now owned by the Van Sweringen Brothers, who desired to build several car barns at this location in Kingsbury Run for their Shaker Heights rapid transit line. The city and the railroad agreed that the trestle bridge would come down and that the railroad would bear the cost of replacing it with a new bridge, one that would allow for continued pedestrian travel between the Jackowo and Kinsman Road neighborhoods, while at the same time creating open space below for the new rapid transit buildings.

The new Sidaway bridge was designed in 1929 by Fred L. Plummer, a talented Cleveland engineer, who was both a professor of engineering at the Case School of Applied Science (later called the Case Institute of Technology) and a design professional at the engineering firm of Wilbur Watson and Associates. Plummer designed it as a suspension bridge, a popular type of bridge form in the United States in the 1920s. Using an intricate series of weight-bearing steel cables, suspension bridges allow for great expanses of bridge deck with a minimum number of support towers. Completed in 1930, the new Sidaway Bridge was the first and remains to this day the only suspension bridge ever built in Cleveland.

Just a few years after the new bridge opened and pedestrian travel across the Kingsbury Run resumed, the Run became locally notorious as the result of a series of grisly murders, known as the Cleveland Torso Murders, which occurred between 1935-1938. At least 12 men and women were murdered in the stretch and, in at least four of the murders, the victim's mutilated corpses were dumped at various locations there. On top of this, just several years later, in June 1942, as the memory of the Torso Murders was fading, the body of another victim was found on a hillside under the Sidaway Bridge.

Notoriety did not depart from this area of Cleveland even when the Kingsbury Run murders came to an end. In the next three decades, a new type of notoriety for the two neighborhoods arrived, when the Kinsman Road neighborhood transitioned from one that had been largely white and ethnic to one that was largely African-American. Portions of that latter neighborhood had severely deteriorated housing and, in the years 1955-1959, under a federal urban renewal program, 130 acres, between East 71st and East 79th Streets, was cleared of that housing and the 650-unit Garden Valley subsidized housing project built. An increased number of African-American children began using the Sidaway Bridge to walk to Tod Elementary School, the public school in the still largely white and ethnic Jackowo neighborhood. And now the Sidaway Bridge connected a black and a white community in a city where, in the early 1960s, racial tension was mounting.

In 1966, this tension erupted in the form of the Hough Riots. During the riots, the Sidaway Bridge became a flash point, literally, when someone (likely from the Jackowo neighborhood) removed planking from the bridge and attempted to set it on fire, preventing anyone, particularly residents of the Kinsman Road neighborhood, from using it. Rather than repair the bridge and keep it open to the public, the City of Cleveland elected instead to close it. A decade later, that decision came back to haunt the city, when, in 1976, federal district court judge Frank Battisti, in the course of issuing his busing order to desegregate Cleveland's public schools, cited the closing of the Sidaway Bridge as evidence that city and school officials had worked in concert to segregate the schools on the basis of race.

Fifty years have now passed since the Sidaway Bridge was closed during the Cleveland Hough Riots. All that time the beautiful suspension bridge erected in 1930 has patiently waited for repair and reopening. From time to time, such proposals have been made, but to date they have come to naught. Until it is repaired and reopened, it cannot serve the purpose for which it was built: to bring the people of the Kinsman Road and Jackowo neighborhoods together for their mutual commercial and general welfare. And until that happens, it will remain a symbol of the mid to late twentieth century troubles that separated these two Cleveland neighborhoods and a reminder that they have perhaps not yet bridged that gap.


The Sidaway Bridge
The Sidaway Bridge Designed as a suspension bridge, the Sidaway Bridge is the second pedestrian bridge to have been built over the Kingsbury Run connecting the Kinsman Road and Jackowo (St. Hyacinth) Cleveland neighborhoods. Completed in 1930 at a cost of of $36,342, it features two steel towers, each 158 feet tall, and an overall length of 680 ft. It is Cleveland's only suspension bridge. This photo was taken in 1942. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Cause for Celebration
Cause for Celebration The first Sidaway Bridge was a wooden trestle bridge. When it opened to pedestrian traffic in November 1909, the three citizens organizations from the Kinsman Road and Jackowo neighborhoods of Cleveland which had successfully petitioned the city to build it, held a parade. The article and accompanying photo from the November 30, 1909 Cleveland Plain Dealer describes the community excitement when the new bridge opened and finally connected the two neighborhoods. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Harry J. Collier (1847-1930)
Harry J. Collier (1847-1930) The first Sidaway Bridge, a wooden trestle bridge--the longest wooden bridge ever built in Cleveland, was constructed by this man's company. Collier was a contractor who was born in New York and initially planned to become a farmer, but, after serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, decided to become a railroad contractor. For decades, he traveled all over the country, building bridges and buildings for the railroads. He lived in Cleveland for only a short period of time, long enough, however, to successfully bid for and then build the Sidaway trestle bridge in 1909. Photographs of the bridge under construction suggest that his Cleveland workforce was almost entirely composed of African-American workers. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Dahler's Garden
Dahler's Garden A popular gathering place in the Jackowo Polish neighborhood in the early twentieth century, it featured a dance hall as well as a bowling alley. In this section of the 1912 Sanborn Map of Cleveland, you can see how close Dahler's was to the Sidaway Bridge, indicated on the map as "wooden bridge" and circled. Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Map Collection
Fred L. Plummer (1900-1983)
Fred L. Plummer (1900-1983) A talented engineer, Plummer was both a professor at the Case School of Applied Science (Case Institute of Technology) and a design professional at the well-known Cleveland engineering firm of Wilbur Watson & Associates. In 1929, he designed the Sidaway suspension bridge. Plummer also participated in the design of the Lorain-Carnegie Hope Memorial Bridge which opened in 1932, and was the principal designer of the Main Avenue Bridge which opened in 1939. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Spanning Kingsbury Run
Spanning Kingsbury Run This 1966 photo, with a view generally to the north, shows the full length of the Sidaway Bridge. It is 680 feet long with a center span of 400 feet. Its 6-foot wide walkway is located 80 feet above Kingsbury Run. The bridge's two support towers are 105 feet tall. One writer noted in 1978 that, while it won no awards when it was built, it is clearly a beautiful structure. Also shown in the photo are the buildings built by the Nickel Plate Railroad for use as car barns for the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit Line. Source: Library of Congress Digital Photograph Collection
Built by a Railroad
Built by a Railroad This section of the Hopkins 1927 Atlas of Cuyahoga County, with 1937 revisions, depicts the Sidaway Bridge (circle in red and identified as a "foot bridge") spanning Kingsbury Run. Below it are the Shaker Heights rapid transit line car barns that prompted the razing of the old trestle bridge and the construction of the new suspension bridge in 1930. Source: Cleveland Public Library Digital Map Collections
A Place for Dumping Bodies
A Place for Dumping Bodies In June 1942, Cleveland police officers and detectives examine a site under the Sidaway Bridge where the body of 20-year old Marie Wilson was found. Later that year, Willie Johnson, an unemployed dishwasher, was convicted of killing her and dumping her body under the bridge. In the 1930s, Kingsbury Run acquired a reputation as a body dump, because of the notorious Cleveland Torso murders. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Missing and burned planks
Missing and burned planks During the 1966 Hough riots, the wooden deck of the Sidaway Bridge was burned and a number of its planks removed. This photo was taken in 1970. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections,
Closed After the Sidaway Bridge's deck was damaged during the 1966 Hough Riots, the City of Cleveland closed it to pedestrian travel. A "Bridge Closed" sign was posted and the entrance ways to the bridge barricaded, as shown in this 1970 photograph. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Evidence of Intentional Segregation
Evidence of Intentional Segregation On August 31, 1976, Judge Frank Battisti of the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, federal district court, issued a ruling finding that State and local school officials, sometimes in concert with city officials, had intentionally segregated Cleveland's public schools. He cited the city's failure to repair and reopen the Sidaway Bridge, after the 1966 Hough Riots, as evidence of this intentional segregation. This aerial photograph accompanied a September 1, 1976 Plain Dealer article that reported the ruling. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Scwartz Library, Special Collections
The Bridge Today
The Bridge Today This photo--taken in 2016 from the north side of Kingsbury Run, shows the Sidaway Bridge still closed, currently serving only as a fancy trellis for nature, and waiting patiently for repairs and reopening that would enable it to once again fulfill its original purpose of bringing the people of the Jackowo and Kinsman Road neighborhoods together for their mutual commercial and general welfare. Creator: Craig Bobby


Sidaway Ave, Cleveland, OH | The bridge is currently inaccessible


Danielle Rose and Jim Dubelko, “Sidaway Bridge,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 24, 2024,