Nearly 2,000 images from the the Cuyahoga County Engineer's Office, documenting Engineer's Office projects to install and maintain the civil infrastructure.
For some 70 years, the Cuyahoga County Engineer's Office maintained a small photographic department, which it used to document aspects of the Engineer's Office projects. When that department was closed in 1999, the prints and negatives were transferred to the Cuyahoga County Archives. In 2002 the Cleveland State University Library contracted with the County Commissioners to examine this material and selected approximately 1,200 of these images to make available online via Cleveland Memory. Since then, more photos have been digitized to bring the total up to nearly 2,000 images.
The King Iron Bridge Co. played an important role in the development and construction of metal truss bridges, a product of American engineering and construction technology, nationwide during the later part of the Nineteenth Century. The King Iron Bridge & Manufacturing Co. was organized under that name in Cleveland in 1871 by Zenas King, who had started his career in building bridges in 1858. King came to Cleveland from Cincinnati around 1861, and by 1865 had established his works on Wason (East 38th St.) between St. Clair and Hamilton Avenue. The Company moved to a larger plant on Ruskin Ave.(East 69th St.) around 1888.
The Company's business at first was confined to manufacturing iron arch and swing bridges. By 1878 it was building all types of truss, combination, and wooden bridges, including King's patented tubular arch, as well as iron roof trusses, fencing, and jail cells. During the 1880's the Company was the largest highway bridge works in the country, having built bridges in Topeka, KA., Santa Rosa, CA., Binghamton, NY., Bowling Green, KY., Ft. Laramie, WY., and Macon, Ga.
Upon King's death in 1892, the Company's name was changed to the King Bridge Company. The Company built bridges in Cleveland that include the Central Viaduct in 1888; the Center Street swing bridge in 1901, Cleveland's last remaining swing bridge; and the 591 ft. steel arch of the Detroit-Superior (Veteran's Memorial) bridge in 1918. The Company disbanded in the 1920s.
In March of 1983, Dr. Sara Ruth Watson, a former Professor of English and Engineering at Fenn College, donated a large collection of rare books and fifteen albums of photographs, all on historic bridges, to the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University where they now reside as part of the Library's special collections.
The collection was begun by Dr. Watson's father, Wilbur J. Watson, a distinguished civil engineer and bridge designer who from his student days at Western Reserve University collected books on bridges and continued this interest during a long professional career. He founded the Watson Engineering Company in Cleveland, developed some important early concrete standards and authored several books, one with his daughters Sara Ruth and Emily.
Dr. Sara Ruth Watson initiated, and from 1940 to 1970, taught a pioneer course in the History of Civil Engineering. She continued and expanded her father's collection. In October 1986, after the death of her sister, Dr. Watson established the Emily M. Watson Endowment Fund for the maintenance and acquisition of books and periodicals to the Watson Bridge Book Collection, which have as their primary focus the history of civil engineering with a special emphasis on bridges. Dr. Sara Ruth Watson left a bequest in 1996 to further support the Watson Bridge Book Collection.