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Issue Date: February 2011


Erick Trickey

“Heroic pieces of sculpture,” The Plain Dealer called the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge’s 43-foot-tall sandstone figures when this photo was originally published in July 1932, five months before the bridge opened. “Guardians of Traffic,” their engineer, Wilbur Watson, called them, as if comparing them to the winged guardian statues in Assyrian palaces, believed to magically protect those who passed between them.

The Associated Press wire carried this photograph again in March 1976, when the statues’ fate was endangered. Imperious county engineer Albert S. Porter wanted to raze them to widen the bridge. “Those columns are monstrosities and should be torn down and forgotten,” Porter declared. “We’re not running a May Show here. Naming those gargoyles historic objects simply introduces a lot of red tape.”

A state board of historic sites disagreed, deciding the statues were “an extremely important and rare example of modernist or art deco style.” By the end of 1976, the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places, guaranteeing the figures’ protection. Porter, meanwhile, lost the November election and was indicted on 102 charges of theft in office — proving that it is unwise to threaten the Guardians.

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