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Issue Date: September 2011


Erick Trickey

Streetcars plunged into subterranean dark as they approached the Detroit-Superior Bridge, the tunnels’ walls amplifying their rush and clatter. Eastbound trains screeched, rounding the curve into the West 25th Street station, then picked up passengers and ascended back into daylight. On the arched bridge’s lower level, riders looked down to the Cuyahoga River, sparkling nearly 100 feet below. Sunlight streaked through columns as the trains dove again into the lamp-lit West Ninth Street subway station.

From 1917 to 1954, streetcars carried West Siders to and from Public Square across the bridge. (This photo of the West Ninth station appears to date from the mid-1920s, judging by the waiting riders’ clothes.) In 1936, when Cleveland was home to about 900,000 people, three to four trains a minute passed through the two subway stations at rush hour. Ridership on the bridge lines alone reached several million a year.

Today, the subway and the renamed Veterans Memorial Bridge’s lower level are open for a tour once a year, in July. IngenuityFest, Sept. 16-18, fills the stations with live music and dance, while art installations play off their labyrinthine spaces.

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