Historic Poland bridge to get national marker
By J.T. WHITEHOUSE
POLAND — The historic Riverside Cemetery Bridge will have a marker this year, declaring it part of the National Register of Historic Places.
The marker is being made and once it is placed, local historians plan a dedication ceremony.
These National Register of Historic Places roadside markers appear across the nation. The Riverside Cemetery Bridge was added to the registry in 1983 along with the historic South Main Street area, which was added in 1974.
Neither one had a marker until now, thanks to local historian Dave Smith.
“I am the one who wrote the application for the bridge marker,” Smith said.
He learned about The William G. Pomeroy Foundation, which has a program to provide signage for locations that are on the National Register. The company provides grants for the signage. Since 2006, the foundation has funded more than 1,300 signs across the United States, according to information provided by the foundation.
Poland’s Cemetery Bridge is a bowstring arch truss bridge that was fabricated by the Wrought Iron Bridge Co. of North Canton, Smith explained. What makes the bridge so special is its unusual design that was patented in 1872 by Dr. William Rezner of Cleveland, who also operated the Ohio Bridge Co. of Cleveland. The Poland bridge is the only one of its type still in existence in Ohio and among the very few like it across the nation.
The design includes an oval-shaped arch that was believed to be stronger than the circular cross-section and much lighter than solid wrought iron.
“The bridge provided a nice shortcut from Route 224 to Route 616 until 1984 when it was closed to vehicular traffic,” Smith said.
Over the years the bridge went by several names. Early on it was known as the Morse Bridge and The White Bridge. The Morse family had built a grist mill at that site on Yellow Creek, and lived across Water Street on a large property. It was said that one of the Morse family was involved with the bridge building.
Smith said the bridge was built just in the nick of time.
“It was very fortunate that this bridge was built in 1877 because the following year in March the Main Street bridge collapsed as there was an unsuccessful attempt to move a small building across the bridge,” Smith said. “… the bridge collapsed, throwing men and horses into the creek. Two men died.”
Around 1947 the bridge was painted black to hide some rust marks, after which it became the Cemetery Bridge since it led to the back of Riverside Cemetery.
The historic bridge played witness to the change in transportation from horse drawn wagons to the age of the muscle cars. It was closed to vehicle traffic right after it was added to the National Register.
It remained closed until 1998 when it was opened to pedestrian traffic and the former Riverside Drive crossing over Yellow Creek became a walking trail of sorts. Prior to its opening, people would step over the barriers to cross Yellow Creek.
More recently, the Ohio Department Of Transportation repaired, cleaned and painted the bridge as part of a project shared with Poland Village. The total project cost was $210,864.30 with the village’s share at $54,780. The work was completed last fall.
Smith said the timing is right to have the marker installed. It has been ordered from Sewah Studios in Marietta, which also makes the Ohio Historical markers. One of the national markers in the form of a plaque has been placed on The Little Red School House, owned by the Poland Historical Society. The bridge will have a roadside marker on a 7-foot post.
Smith said he would like to have a small dedication ceremony. In the meantime, he is working on an application for the South Main Street national marker.
“The South Main Street marker, if approved, will include the district from the fire station at 111 South Main to 441 South Main, featuring many of the nicest old homes in the village,” Smith said. “The specific location for that marker has not yet been determined.”