CLEVELAND, Ohio – That’s awesome. He has the place of honor, the heritage, the nostalgia, the stewardship and the strength, all wrapped up in a harsh, harsh, beautiful and powerful word: Guardians.
The Cleveland Indians’ new name, announced on Friday, is expected to be an immediate hit. It deserves to be.
Critics might point out that few outside the city will understand that the name refers to the eight 43-foot-tall Berea sandstone sculptures depicting guardians standing guard on four pylons above the east and west ends of the Hope Bridge. Memorial Bridge from 1932, AKA Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, the side of which is facing Progressive Field at Ontario Street.
Yes, but the world will soon know that the name refers to the Traffic Guardians, also known as Transport Guardians, who adorn the bridge.
It’s easy to imagine how the team and the city will bring new attention to the sculptures, designed by the Cleveland architect. Frank R. Walker and sculpted under the direction of a distinguished American sculptor Henri hering.
The sculptures were the favorite icons of the Cleveland artists, who marketed everything from photographs and leggings to flame-treated wood plaques printed with images of the Guardians, as Ideastream’s public media. reported in 2018.
The Cavaliers used one of the stern-faced Guardian figures during the 2018-19 season as the large motif for their “All For The Land” banner on the Sherwin-Williams building overlooking Ontario Street. The pointillist style image consisted of thousands of individual photos of Cavs and Clevelanders fans.
The Guardians and their once grimy sooty bridge date back to Cleveland’s industrial heyday, when the 1930 census ranked the city 6th in population, after 5th Los Angeles and ahead of 7th St. Louis.
Like other landmarks of the era, the Guardians are a testament to the pride of a city that saw itself as an important place, and not the butt of late-night TV jokes it later became. The Guardians resonate again today as symbols of the proud, united, and reborn place that Cleveland aspires to be.
The Guardian-supervised bridge spans the Cuyahoga River, once a polluted industrial waste sink that has returned to health and now carries rowers, paddleboarders and canoeists as well as majestic ore boats that carry taconite pellets for fuel. upstream steelworks Industrial apartments.
The bridge offers spectacular views of the soon to be expanded Cleveland skyline with the addition of a fourth skyscraper in Public Square, home to the new Sherwin-Williams headquarters.
The Lorain-Carnegie span, which is just north of the Interstate 90 George Voinovich bridge (which is actually two bridges) serves pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists. It’s a powerful emblem of Cleveland’s past and future as a place where modes of transportation intermingle along routes that cross a river and a continent, passing through a city strategically located between New York and Chicago.
The Guardians watch over all of this, unifying the eastern and western sides of the city facing both directions. They stand straight and back straight with wings over their shoulders and eyes fixed on distant horizons. Their stone hands grip historic modes of transportation, including a stagecoach, a settler’s Conestoga wagon, various trucks, and an automobile. Collectively, they tell of the accelerated compression of time and space through travel, a mark of modernity.
Yet their clean neoclassical style, tinged with Art Deco geometries, dates back to the early decades of the mid-last century, when speed on land, sea and water were new, when Cleveland was one of the early leaders of the world. air transportation and automobile manufacturing, and when the highways that decanted the city’s population and tax base to suburbs and outlying counties had yet to be built.
Those were filthy years of smoke and pollution in Cleveland, and part of that legacy literally stems from the Guardians, whose red surfaces bear the marks of long-closed factories.
The Guardians also bear witness to the evolution of Cleveland in art and architecture.
Walker, who co-designed the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge as a consultant with engineering firm Wilbur J. Watson & Associates, was a partner of architect Harry Weeks. Together they ran Cleveland’s premier architectural firm of their day, designing landmarks such as the 1923 Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and 1931 Severance Hall at University Circle, home of the Cleveland Orchestra.
Hering’s work as a sculptor, like the architecture of Walker & Weeks, was strongly rooted in the neoclassical tradition of Fine Arts, a 19th and early 20th century adaptation of ancient Greek and Roman design, promulgated by the architectural schools in Europe and America until the rise of Modernist design, from the 1920s and 1930s.
Hering’s work adorns buildings in Cleveland, including Severance Hall and the Federal Reserve. His 1928 “Defense” sculptural relief, on the tender house at Michigan Avenue Bridge in Chicago, is one of the city’s most memorable landmarks.
As the Guardians show, Hering and Walker in the late 1920s and early 1930s were adapting influences from the Art Deco style, launched in 1925 at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris.
These touches are visible in the machine-like flattening and geometric patterns on the abstract folds of the Guardians’ draperies, giving them a touch of Jazz-Age pizzazz.
The Guardians’ musculature anticipates the athletic weight and grace of Superman, the famous comic book superhero created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933 while they both attended Glenville High School in Cleveland. .
To be guarded by superheroes, whether it’s a crusader wearing a cape or characters standing as sentries on a bridge, is to be safe, to feel safe knowing that someone looking for you.
In a sense, the Guardians are. They are helping the city shift from a team name that carried a whiff, however unintentional, of racism, military violence and broken treaties perpetrated against Native Americans from the wars in southern New England in the 17th century to Wounded Knee at the 19th.
Given their roots in neoclassicism, the Guardians inevitably reflect an ancient cultural tradition appropriated by Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany as emblematic of ethnic purity. The style was also adopted by white nationalists to the United States eager to claim the legacy of Greece and Rome as their own.
However, as many scholars have pointed out, the Greek and Roman Empires were multi-ethnic. The sculptures of the two civilizations were also richly polychrome; their colors either faded over time or cleaned up by ill-informed restorers over the following centuries.
Today, we might choose to view the Guardians as hardworking figures of sturdy proportions that symbolize the dignity of work. Like caryatids holding an ancient temple, they are not afraid of getting their hands dirty and carrying heavy loads.
With the “ians” at the end of their name, they retain at least a touch of their old team name, without the unsavory associations.
They also link the team to the namesake of the bridge they oversee, stonemason William Henry Hope, a native of England who immigrated to Cleveland with his family and helped sculpt the Guardians. He was the father of comedian and performer Bob Hope, whose name and reputation also sticks to the bridge, although he was renamed to his father after a cleanse and rehab in 1983.
What matters here is this beautiful word, hope. Muscular sculptures on a bridge now stand guard in hopes that one day, one way or another, the Cleveland baseball team will bring a world championship back to the city straddling the Cuyahoga.