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Guardians of Traffic: Cleveland’s Kingly Roadside Attraction

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Cleveland Guardians of Traffic
Guardians of Traffic, one of Cleveland’s architectural gems
Photo: Erik Drost via CC

Tolkien’s Middle Earth isn’t the only place with some epic historic statues worth seeing. If you’re planning a road trip to Cleveland, Ohio, make sure to check out the Guardians of Traffic. Similar to The Argonath watching over River Anduin, the majestic Guardians of Traffic sculptures have been watching the flow of Cleveland traffic for almost a century.

 

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Cleveland Guardians of Traffic
One of the guardians overlooking Cleveland traffic
Photo: Erik Drost via CC

The history of the guardians

Part of the Hope Memorial Bridge, the Guardians of Traffic has been a central part of Cleveland architecture since 1932, when the bridge opened for use. The bridge has connected Lorain Avenue and Carnegie Avenue, two major routes for Cleveland drivers, for decades now.

Architect Frank Walker and sculptor Henry Hering get the credit for constructing the icon, as Bloomberg’s Elizabeth Yuko confirms. The statue is actually comprised of four sandstone pylons that have two sculptures on each side for a total of eight figures.

Each figure stands 43 feet tall, giving the guardians an otherworldly feel. They also have a hybrid classical and Art Deco style, which contributes to the grandiose aesthetic of the statue.

The winged helmets of the guardians take a cue from the Greek god Hermes, as Cleveland Magazine’s Erick Trickey highlights. Considering that Hermes was the god of commerce and land travel, it’s a fitting symbol for the city that had such a strong industrial and transportation influence in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Guardians of Traffic also embody Cleveland’s transportation history. Each figure holds a different vehicle, from a hay wagon to an electric-powered delivery truck, as Yuko notes.

Cleveland Guardians of Traffic
Since 1932, the guardians have stood watch over Cleveland’s east-west traffic
Photo: Erik Drost via CC

The statue today

Today, the Guardians of Traffic continues to enjoy a deserving place on the National Register of Historic Places. Though Cleveland’s industrial golden age is in the past, the statue immortalizes the city’s involvement in the iron and coal industries and its reputation as a major transportation hub in the first part of the 20th century. It’s also worth mentioning that the statue helped inspire the Cleveland Indians’ new (and more culturally sensitive) name, the Cleveland Guardians.

Check out these other fascinating roadside attractions in the Buckeye State as you plan your Ohio road trip itinerary. Then find out which North American bridges are the longest.