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Exhibition Catalogue, 1976
by MARK J. MANENETE
Prints of bridges attributed to Art Trory form an important record of Kent's past. Few of the bridges remain today; and, those surviving have undergone many changes. To identify a particular structure is the beginning step in the research. The major bridges, such as Main and Stow Street set in cityscape, are fairly obvious. However, many of the earlier foot bridges are very difficult to determine due to the lack of internal evidence. Many of Trory's bridge prints, such as Patton's and Brady's Leap, still raise doubt as to their identity.
One of Trory's earliest and finest prints (plate 4) shows the scaffolding in place for a new bridge. The view is north; the Main Street Bridge and bell tower are visible in the distance. Also at left are the water powered flour and alpaca mills. As evidenced by these structures, this is the Stow Street Bridge, but it must be dated. The personal records of Dudley Weaver, a Portage County historian, reveal that the contract was awarded August 8, 1898, to the King Bridge Company of Cleveland; and, the bridge, completed in four months, was opened for traffic December 12, 1898. Thus, with only preliminary scaffolding in place the autumn of 1898 is the probable date for this print, and others in Trory's Stow Street series can be dated from it. For example, the beginning construction is seen in plate 5. Taken from the west side of the river bed, the scene contains evidence of abutment construction. It can be dated about August, 1898.
New means of communication and transportation arrived in Kent and the town progressed into the twentieth century. Many changes were taking place in and around Main Street Bridge built in 1877. Trory recorded these with his camera, but dates given on his prints sometimes proved confusing and may have been added long after the initial images were made.
Trory's print of the Main Street Bridge and box car depot carried the date of 1895. The view (plate 6) was northwest toward River Street with the early churches of Kent visible in the distance. Grismer's History of Kent stated that the depot, erected in 1884, was torn down in 1905 when the interurban lines were double tracked through the city.9 This confirmed that the print was taken before 1905; how much before was the problem. Other evidence had to provide the answer. This proved to be the missing Congregational Church steeple. The source was a booklet entitled The Stately Mansion. 10 The steeple blew down in a high wind during the winter of 1905. With the depot still standing and the steeple gone, it was possible to propose that the print was taken in the spring or summer of 1905.
Plates 7 and 8 illustrate difficulties in identifying foot bridges. Trory has identified them as Patton's swinging bridge. On careful study, it is evident that the structure of the bridge photographed from the river bank (plate 7) is different from the full bridge taken from a vantage point between the two banks (plate 8). Neither the wooden slats nor river contour are the same. The first print is Patton's bridge determined by the Patton house seen in the distance. In the second print there is only the bridge set in nature. Considering the type of construction, river contour, and camera angle this is probably the foot bridge below the present Stow Street Bridge.
Trory extensively documented changing life along the river in Kent. With the use of internal evidence, and local histories, and assistance from Mr. Weaver, the identification and dating progressed. Study of the bridge prints helped to bring Trory's extensive collection into a cohesive whole. They revealed Trory's technical as well as stylistic changes while recording a period of Kent's history.