Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
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by Gary Swilik
For years horse-drawn wagons traveled down Stranahan Hill into Rocky River Valley, crossed the river on a wrought-iron bridge, and made the long, slow climb up the opposite bank into Fairview Village. Frustrated drivers often found a single horse could not pull a heavy load up the steep slope. Traffic heading east took the same route in reverse. Today if you ask for directions to "Stranahan Hill" all you're likely to get is puzzled looks but it still exists. We now call it Old Lorain Road and it winds down the hillside behind Fairview Hospital into the park and continues up the western bank as a paved foot trail.
James Stranahan was born in Connecticut in 1798 and came here with his wife Frances in 1832. His farmhouse was in Rocky River Valley on the site now occupied by Little Met Golf Course in the Metroparks. Since all traffic through the valley passed the Stranahan farm the rugged trek became known as "Stranahan Hill." And the low-level bridge across Rocky River, built in 1883, was called "Stranahan Bridge."
James Stranahan died in 1878 and his wife Francis in 1889. They are buried in the old Fairview Park Cemetery on Lorain Road on the edge of the valley they once lived in. Even after their death the road through the valley was known as Stranahan Hill to generations of West Parkers.
As the population grew residents of western Cuyahoga County demanded an easier way to cross the valley. Plans were made to construct a new bridge. One group wanted it built at Mastick Hill (Puritas Hill) while the other faction pushed for the bridge to be constructed at Stranahan Hill. The Stranahan site won and the first Lorain Road high-level bridge was completed in 1895. Travelers were able to bypass the exhausting climb through the valley for the first time!
Old Lorain Road down Stranahan Hill on the eastern bank was preserved to provide access to the valley but the section that climbed the western bank was abandoned and remained a crumbling path for decades. In recent times it has been repaved and is now a popular hiking trail winding up the hillside to the intersection of Lorain and Story Roads at the western end of the high-level bridge. Few realize it was once the only way through the valley and almost no one remembers Stranahan Hill!
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Updated 18 November 2014