Friday, July 1, 2011

Roadways of Days Past - U.S. Route 6 and the Pleasant Valley Road Bridge

Local Lore by Max has devoted many history related blogs about interesting people and places of Lake County.  We have learned that U.S. Route 20 is the one of the longest east-west roadways in the country spanning 3365 miles.  We have learned that the Buffalo to Cleveland stagecoach routes made the Unionville Tavern of Madison and Rider's Inn of Painesville important stories in early American history.  Homes and buildings designed by Jonathan Goldsmith permeate the Lake County landscape.  Today's blog looks at an often overlooked structure in Willoughby Hills.  Jefferson may have its wooden covered bridges. Painesville-Fairport may have their Richmond Street and Main Street Bridges, but the Pleasant Valley Bridge at 37965 Pleasant Valley Road in Willoughby Hills is a transportation cornerstone worth noting.

The single lane bridge was constructed in 1881 by the Wrought Iron Bridge company of Canton, Ohio.  It was built to replace a wooden bridge that portaged the nearby west branch of the Chagrin River.  Architecturally, it is a 163 foot-long Whipple Truss (double intersection Pratt through truss).  One of less than ten remaining in the state of Ohio, it is possibly the longest bridge in the county.  At the time, it was built to sustain the Euclid-Chardon Road traffic on U.S. Route 6.  Known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, the G.A.R. was a major thoroughfare for 71 years.  A new bridge bypass to the south replaced the original G.A.R. in 1952.  The original bridge was closed in 2001 for three years to undergo dismantling, inspection, cleaning, and restoration.  The Truss bridge with its artwork, name plates atop the overhead portals, and mostly original wrought iron materials has since reopened to local traffic.  The Pleasant Valley Bridge is now owned and operated by the City of Willoughby Hills.  Efforts by the city and the Willoughby Hills Historical Society secured it Historical Marker status in 2007. 

Marker #26-43 remains on its original site and is visible to all drivers who frequent U.S. Route 6 daily.  The G.A.R. thoroughfare remains today as an important link to the transportation history of Lake County, Ohio.

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