Filed Under Architecture

Superior Viaduct

Where the East Side and West Side Met

Clevelanders met the opening of the Superior Viaduct in December 1878 with great fanfare, celebrating the city's first high-level bridge. The bridge in many ways symbolized Cleveland's continuing economic growth and development into a major American city. Prior to the Viaduct's opening, low-level bridges were the only way for vehicles to cross the Cuyahoga River. To approach these bridges, commuters had to navigate steep valley walls. Moreover, bridge traffic would come to a halt with the passing of each and every boat. While the Superior Viaduct's central span still had to swing open several times a day to let taller ships through, it was a vast improvement over the older bridges.

The building of the Superior Viaduct began in March 1875, three years after city residents voted to fund its construction. Costs eventually came to a little over two million dollars. Despite all its grandeur, the viaduct became outdated with the opening of the Detroit-Superior Bridge in 1917. That bridge was built high enough to let even the larger boats pass underneath without disturbing traffic.

The viaduct was closed to cross-river traffic once and for all when its center span was removed in 1923. Over time, the once-celebrated structure was dismantled. Today, a number of the stone arches and other components of the viaduct's western approach are all that remain.

Video

"Our Splendid Viaduct" Viaduct Reflections, by Mark T. Wallace, 1882. Source: CSU Center for Public History + Digital Humanities

Images

Superior Viaduct, 1878 A view of the viaduct shortly after it opened in 1878. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Open Span, 1912 In this photograph from 1912, the center span of the Superior Viaduct has opened to a let a ship pass underneath. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Superior Viaduct, 1912 Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Viaduct Traffic, ca. 1910s Streetcars, pedestrians, and private automobiles cross the Superior Viaduct, circa 1910s. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Center Span, Ca. 1900 The swinging, center span of the Superior Avenue Viaduct, circa 1900. Source: Library of Congress, Photograph Collection
Arch, 1938 An arch is soon to be torn down in this 1938 photograph. Several of the viaduct's arches still stand on the west side of the river. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Viaduct, 1971 A largely intact part of the Superior Viaduct - with the streetcar tracks still in place - in 1971. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections

Location

The viaduct may be reached from W 25th St one block north of Detroit Ave.

Metadata

Michael Rotman, “Superior Viaduct,” Cleveland Historical, accessed September 25, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/65.