Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Here I was today. I didn't have anything to hack at the grape vines with, so I just pulled on them until they gave way. Kind of. I got the gate open, as there was no lock or latch. There was a rusty iron staircase going down, just like the man at the wrecking yard said. I didn't realize how close the tracks really were. "Down there," he said.

I tried to explain that the railroad used to go across Rockefeller Avenue, but he gave me the impression that he thought I was either a moron, corporate spy, or drug dealer. Anyway, someone he was highly suspicious of.

I got about halfway down the steps, pulling vines out of the way and realizing that wearing a white shirt around blue grapes probably wasn't a good idea. Nor was going down a rickety, rusted-out iron staircase when no one knew where I was.

The lack sudden lack of staircase prevented my proceeding much further. It's all gone after about 20 feet.

Well, okay. I was in position to take my photo of the bridge. I did.

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In context for today's rusted-rickety adventure:

The area in bright green is the Canal Tract. It used to be owned by John D. Rockefeller, and was sold in 1880 to the Cleveland Rolling Mill -- then Cleveland's largest steel mill, and largest employer. The mill built the Central Furnaces here, four 120-foot tall blast furnaces that operated day and night. Every 12 hours, each furnace would be loaded with coke, limestone, and raw iron ore, and set fire. Smoke would pour out of the top, drifting east over the city. At night the light would make it bright as day for a half-mile around. After 10 hours or so, someone would drill a hole into the base of the furnace and they'd draw the molten iron out. Then it would be shipped via the Cleveland & Mahoning Valley Railroad to the Cleveland Rolling Mill plant at Union Avenue and E. 93rd Street -- where other giant furnaces would turn it into steel. The sight of vast trains hauling molten metal in the dark must have been amazing.

The yellow line is the route of the Cleveland & Mahoning Valley Railroad. Founded in 1852, the railroad linked the mouth of the Cuyahoga River with Youngstown, where Ohio's early iron industry was located. The railroad began in a yard that stretched along the Old Ship Channel of the Cuyahoga River in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland. It cut across the peninsula (paralleling Mulberry Avenue), then briefly ran along the Cuyahoga River. It cut overland to the southeast to avoid the Scranton Flats and Wheeling Bend, crossing the Cuyahoga just north of Kingsbury Run. The tracks then ran parallel to and east of modern Broadway Avenue, shifting to an east-southeast direction about E. 55th Street. After crossing the tracks of the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad just north of Union Avenue and E. 82nd Street, the C&MV turned sharply southward. Before reaching Harvard Avenue, the tracks shifted southeast again, largely paralleling Harvard Avenue, Caine Avenue, and Miles Avenue before leaving the city for Youngstown.

Nothing is left of the railroad east of E. 37th Street. Over on the west side of the Cuyahoga, Cleveland MetroParks and the Cleveland Foundation are spending about $250 million to turn the old rail bed into a walking and biking trail. Part of it opened in June 2017.

Broadway Avenue used to be known as the Newburg Road. It was constructed in 1806, and connected Public Square with the nascent village of Newburgh (located at Broadway and Union Avenues). The Newburgh Road was so important to the area's economic health that it was widened to 99 feet from 66 feet in 1834, and renamed Broadway. With the extension of the Willow Freeway northward after 1948, Broadway was realigned to follow the old Kingsbury Run Viaduct. The old Broadway, west of E. 37th Street, became Rockefeller Avenue. Its bridge over the railroad tracks was removed (as was the E. 25th Street Bridge), so that it now terminated on the flats.

The blue line is the Standard Oil refining company land. Here is where John D. Rockefeller built the world's first billion-dollar corporation, and it's biggest monopoly. Here is where 90 percent of the oil in North America was refined from 1872 to 1913.

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Here's the bridge I photographed.

The other picture, on "dry land" so to speak, on the east side of Rockefeller Avenue at the intersection with Independence Road. It shows what remains of the Jefferson Avenue Bridge on that side of the road. Just a few concrete blocks and an upright iron...something.

Jefferson Avenue bridge - Kingsbury Run

Jefferson Avenue bridge - abutment remains

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