The Charles Berry Bridge carries US Route 20 and Erie Avenue over the Black River in Lorain, Ohio.
Lorain, originally called the Village of Black River, was a trading post situated along Lake Erie and the Black River. 12 It began to develop in 1817 at which time the need to cross the river’s mouth to get between the two sides of the village began to present unique challenges. The first crossing across the Black River was a series of logs chained together. 12 As a boat approached, a group of logs had to be unchained. Eventually, the crossing was washed away in a storm.
In 1873, the village was incorporated as Lorain. 12 Residents petitioned the county for a drawbridge, and an $18,000 levy was passed which led to the construction of a hand-cranked swing bridge that was completed in 1875. Because ice frequently jammed under the low crossing during the long winters, the bridge was raised to a height of 18 feet in 1893.
Construction of a wooden swing bridge replacement was well underway by October 1899, 9 which was completed at the cost of $175,000 in April 1900. 2 8 12 The bridge was so busy at times that traffic was often backed up with hundreds of vehicles, queueing as much as 15 miles on both sides as the swing span had to be turned as often as six times a day. 12
On November 4, 1937, Lorain City Clerk Paul Mikus prepared to seek federal aid for the construction of a new Erie Avenue bridge and a high-level bypass. 5 On August 2, 1938, the federal Public Works Administration approved a grant of $614,052 to help finance the bridge, 6 with the remainder of the funding gap being covered by a bond issue that voters approved of overwhelmingly with a 70% margin. 12 The War Department, which had jurisdiction over the navigable waterway, approved plans for new bridges at Erie Avenue and 21st Street on August 5 4 over the objections of the Lake Carriers Association which wanted the proposals declared a menace to navigation. 7
Designed by Wilbur J. Watson & Associates of Cleveland and constructed by the Mount Vernon Bridge Company of Mount Vernon, Ohio, 11 13 the new Erie Avenue bascule bridge was opened in conjunction with the Lorain High-Level Bridge on September 26, 1940. 1 Both were completed at the cost of $3 million, with the Erie Avenue structure costing $1.3 million to complete, 2 and the dedication ceremonies were attended by 50,000 people. 1 The crossings were a central component of the $7 million development of the city’s natural harbor. 3
The Erie Avenue span was the world’s longest bascule bridge at the time of its completion with a total length of 1,053 feet. 2 13 Consisting of a Pratt deck truss with girder approaches, the double-leaf bascule opened upward with counter-balance weights that were moved by electric motors with a 100 HP gasoline motor that provided supplemental power during emergencies. 2 13 Close clearances required by the alignment near the old bridge forced operating machinery into the center of each pier. 13 Additionally, limited room for the counterweight was overcome by the use of iron ore as the aggregate for the concrete.
Following the discovery of a structural crack, the Erie Avenue bascule bridge underwent a major rehabilitation in 1988 at the cost of $7.5 million during which time the bridge’s deck, lift motors, drive system, boilers, and lighting systems were replaced. 10 12 14 When the work was finished, the bridge was re-dedicated on Veterans Day at which time it was renamed the Charles Berry Bridge in honor of Charles Berry, a Marine from Lorain who lost his life in the battle of Iwo Jima and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. 10 12
- State: Ohio
- Route: US Route 6
- Type: Pratt Deck Truss, Double-Leaf Bascule
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 926 feet (1900); 1,053 feet (1940)
- Main Span Length: 330 feet
- Deck Width: 61 feet (1940)
- Roadway Width: 50 feet (1900); 47 feet (1940)
- Navigational Clearance:
- “Lorain Opens New Bridges.” Daily Times [New Philadelphia], 26 Sept. 1940, p. 2.
- “Lorain Bridge to Speed Traffic.” Logan Daily News, 10 Aug. 1940, p. 1.
- “Lorain Dedicates Two New Bridges.” News-Messenger [Fremont], 26 Sept, 1940, p. 2.
- “Approves Bridges.” Salem News, 5 Aug. 1938, p. 2.
- “Seeks New Bridge.” Akron Beacon Journal, 4 Nov. 1937, p. 3.
- “Grant Fund for Bridge in Lorain.” News-Messenger [Fremont], 2 Aug. 1938, p. 1.
- “Lorain Bridge Is Not Manace.” News-Messenger [Fremont], 3 Sept. 1937, p. 14.
- “Buckeyes.” Bucyrus Evening Telegraph, 20 Apr. 1900, p. 3.
- “The New Bridge.” Elyria Reporter, 19 Oct. 1899, p. 6.
- “The Charles Berry Bascule Bridge.” Lorain County.
- Holth, Nathan. “Erie Avenue Bridge.” HistoricBridges.org, 7 Jul. 2014.
- Gandee, Linda. “The bridges over Lorain’s Black River.” cleveland.com, 5 Jul. 2016.
- “Lorain Bascule Sets New Span Record.” Engineering News-Record, Dec. 1940.
- “Bridge Fault.” Marion Star, 11 Jan. 1982, p. 5.