The only suspension bridge ever built in Cleveland was also the victim of 1960s racial conflict. Though this pedestrian bridge still stands today, it has not been usable in more than 50 years.
The Sidaway bridge was built to span the Kingsbury Run valley and connect Kinsman and Jackowo, two ethnically European neighborhoods on Cleveland’s east side. The original bridge, built in 1909, was replaced by a suspension bridge in 1930 when railroads required more clearance.
Around the same time, Kingsbury Run became infamous as the site where four dismembered bodies of the “Cleveland Torso Killer” were discovered. The “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run” was never found.
The area only gained more disrepute. In 1966, racial tension boiled over with riots in the Hough neighborhood. By this time, the population in Kinsman had become predominantly African American. Schoolchildren from Kinsman used the Sidaway Bridge to cross over to an elementary school in Jackowo. During the riots, someone ripped up planks and set the bridge on fire in a symbolic and physical attempt to keep black children out of white schools.
The city decided to close the bridge, rather than repair it. Cleveland’s failure to reopen the bridge was later cited as evidence in the case that led to the forced desegregation of the city’s schools. Over 50 years after its partial destruction, the Sidaway Bridge still stands as the only suspension bridge in the city’s history, and an unintended reminder of segregation in the Cleveland.
Know Before You Go
The Sidaway Bridge runs from Sidaway Avenue to Berwick Road. It is blocked off at both ends, with overgrown shrubs on private property obstructing the view. The best way to get a clear (though fleeting) view of the bridge is by looking southeast from an eastbound RTA red, green, or blue line train, just east of the E. 55th Street station.