In January 2021, there was a terrible accident on I-680 under the Mahoning Bridge that resulted in severe damage to one of the bridge supports. I-680 had to be closed in both directions for months as did the Mahoning Avenue Bridge. Essentially, access between the West side and downtown was seriously affected, involving significant detours.
That was the situation in 1900. Mill Creek was a barrier between downtown and the West side. Mahoning Avenue and the West side was only sparsely settled west of Mill Creek. This changed in 1903 with the construction of the Mahoning Avenue Bridge by Huston & Cleveland, an engineering firm out of Columbus, Ohio (they also built a bridge over Yellow Creek on Main Street in Poland in 1904). It was built at a time when Youngstown’s population was expanding rapidly and the city was growing in every direction. The home in which I grew up on the lower West side was built around 1920 as part of that expansion.
I drove or walked across that bridge to the Isaly dairy plant or to go downtown the whole time I lived in Youngstown. We often drove under it to enter Mill Creek Park at Tod Avenue which went over Mill Creek. What I never realized until this week was that those two bridges were actually a single double deck bridge, the only known example of a Pratt Double Deck. You can see this in the photo above which shows both bridges with the connecting girders with the Pratt deck truss on the upper level (Mahoning Avenue) and an adapted form of the Pratt through truss on the lower level (Tod Avenue). This is what you saw as you crossed the lower level bridge:
You will note these photographs come from a Library of Congress site. The collection includes additional photographs of the bridge from below as well as engineering drawings of the bridge. There is a document marked “Plan of Repairs” from the County Surveyors Office marked 1931, which was when the American Bridge Company of New York made repairs on the bridge. The bridge was further modified when I-680 was built in the 1960’s.
The bridge lasted over 90 years. It was replaced in 1997 with the current structure, classified a steel stringer/multi-beam or girder bridge of 6 spans. Tod Avenue now passes under the Mahoning Avenue bridge and crosses Mill Creek parallel and just south of the present Mahoning Avenue bridge. The old access road just before the Mahoning Avenue Bridge going west no longer exists. You have to turn onto Irving by the old Ward Baking Company building and then left onto Tod Avenue to take it into the park.
The Mahoning Avenue bridge contributed to the growth of Youngstown’s West side. I read elsewhere that the Mahoning Theatre opened in 1921 to serve the growing population on the West Side. That included both of my grandparents who moved to the West side in the 1930’s. My parents met at Chaney High School. Their first date was at the Mahoning Theatre! It’s interesting to think that this unusual bridge played an indirect part in my family history!
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!