The Brecksville Landslide

The Brecksville Landslide W!th
,1 noi~('
dCSCTlbt::d <IS
booming," ,J 5OC)-foot-1ong slice of the
cilstem ('d~t.' of Brecksville 5hd mto the
CUYilhQg.1 River V;J.llev during the early
mornin~ hour; of Fcbruilry 7, 1'150. The
lMgc~t I"ndc;hdc to occur In OhiO, the
Brcckwi!1e ..!ide dc..troycd 11 county
hlj;hwJy garage, a [.usc section of Filz-
\\ilter Road, illld 11 pari of the B. & O.
railroild tracks. The sudden movement
01 earth - not \0 be confused with an
tJlso thrciltened the C. I L
Fi~her home, which la ter \Y,lS moved to
another sHe Fitzwater ROild
TJu JJI,,,/<Jillf III Bft'rk$IiJI/(, Dillf'>. I
road and ral/rOlld Irllcks, IPhoto by
!'''','o""",', nmilly Illsllwa.II garltsr a'lIl pltrls of !lr,nlly
manently clOSed , ilnd the coun ty gardse
sll€ is now iI weed-grown pile of rubble
Severill f.lctOrs were responslbk for
this. big eilrthslidc which caused dilm­
uges estim.lted .It S5{l(),OOO, imd various
geologists stressed slightly different
Te(lsons. A Ken t State University pro­
fesst)T sUgbested the slide was due 10
<utlfi<:ial(.'xcilvatlon ilt the foot or toe of
iln uns.lfe slope. The Uly of
w,,~ pilrticul,lrly interested in .mother
theorv that a leaky .....aler moljn had lost
enough water 10 Ciluse the shde and that
the city might therefore be fjilble for
damages. Although Willer was the
major culprit, the le.lking water mil lO
h,ld little or no th ing to do With the di­
SJster. Dr. (holr/es. S. B,lcon. it Case In­
S.lllu lC of Technologv ~('ology profcs.sor.
prepa red a detailed map and report on
Ihe BrecksVIlle 1.mdslide. nollng Ihill
the heavy sC.lsonal !i-nowsand r.llns had
S<llura\ed ;lOr.! lubTicated Ihe thIck lolke
clays along IhL' lower reaches of Ihe
tronllnucd on
lconlinu.... from p.go: II
LU\'ahog;l V;llley rhl' leaky city w.lter
m.1IIl was prob.lbly only .111 Incident.11
S(lurCt: uf wdtcr.
I'rofcs..or Hacun·.; fllldings pro"ith.'d
n('uher compcn<;iltl(ln nor consolation
to the L. II. ri..her f.lmllv. who hdd
bc('n awakened by workmen a[ 4:00 in
th~' rnorf\ln~ to be told that their houS{'
w;'s ilbout to plunge down thl' cliff The
Fi.. h('rs c""cu,Hed thei r home. bMdy
gettmg the l;lmily Cilrs to s.lfdv bdore
ritzwater ROild slid down .1 liftV·/(XJI
SCMp. t.,kmg most ul their iront y.ud
,dong with II The house itself, exccpt
(or the front porch. W,lS s.llvag('d a few
d.lvs later .md moved to ,1 sa r ~r site o1f
the Juncture of Riverview ,1nu Fitzwater
The pOlenllal for such iI holZMd as the
Bred,svl1te l.lnd<;hde exist .. wherever
bUltdings ilrl' con:.tructed at the l'dg(' of
,1 Sleep ,,!oPl' on permc"blc. daY-fich
soils. In sorn .. pl.lI::es homes h,wc been
bUilt Jirectly on top of sl urnp blocks th"t
h.lVe slid part w;,y down the ~iJe of the
v.lllcy .,nl! might be sub!"ct to lurther
sliding ol\ any lime. The V.lncy walts
iltong the CuY,lhoga nrc pockmilrkcd by
traces 01 o thl'r till\dslide~ Ihat occurred
In the more dt ..tan t PilS!. Tlw hlgh!v un·
stilble dilYs .Jnd "IItS re.. pon!olble for the
Brecksville landslide ..... ere depoSits laid
down in .,n .mcient lake cTeilted by gl,]­
ci;tl ice damming the mouth of the
Cuyahogjl River. When Ihl" I.lke was
drained, at the end of the last Icc Age.
the nwdern Luyahogil River began
crodmg Its ch.mnd Ihrough Ihe S(lfl lake
"ediment", Cr"3tmg the ..te\:p. un~table
cliffs that loday form the v.llk'y W.lItS
Mirnculou"ly. no one wa!' hurt m the
HrecksvllIl' l<lnd~lldc. The sturdy con­
crete foundation of Ihi! Fishe r hom£'
prevented it from failing over the edg~
oi the landslide sc.up A night watch-
m.'n. who h.,d entered thl.' county g.l­
rage shorlly b.. fore the slide, Tcc.ll1ed,
.. fhe bulldmg sti1Tled to sh,'ke and
tremble.! thought It wilsan eilTlh'luake
One Willi collap-.eJ .lnd the \Yll1dows
sl<lrled 10 bre.,". I got OUI of there lust in
time." The ~<1T.lI'\C (Ioor was lifted some
twen ly fee l ,md th(' bUilding completely
demoli~hl· d. Iholl,t:h most of the
equipment inside was !;ller satvilged
Th(' B. & 0, r,lllro.ld tracks were r;,i.,ed
marc Ih.m three Icct olnd thrust t".ht­
ward neil rly !oIX feel. The eighly-fool­
high brkl.. chimney On the county g<l­
r<lge. toppled by the eilTth slide, fell
.lcrOSS the 8. & U. tracks. An ilppro.lCh­
mg diesd W,JS (I.1gsed down, sloppmg
twenty-five ieet !ohort of the ruined
tr<lCI., ilcconlm~ to one account An­
other .Iccoune. however, reported that
the trilm en/itn(· ..tnlck the chlmn('Y .11 ,1
slow "peed but "W.1S nOI badly d,lm­
Nearly thIrty VCilrs after tht'
Brecksville lilndsIiJt'. I\<' <;ears are .. till
very ilpparent A sllI.11I stream of water
now (lows .llong on(' edge of th... slide
~(;Up. while Ihl' county g.1Tage Sill' hilS
been (UnSigned 10 the weeds. Lhunk~
of the smokesl.lck punctuilte the lilnd·
5(:ilpe, .1mid lilMed brok .. n sl<lb~ 01 con­
aete (looTing. Much of the ilctual slide,
some 750 feet long, IS now covered WIth
'K"Nbby aspen and rudlment,lry forest
oyergrowth. but the outlines of the slide
.md the hummockv. broken terTil10 arc
still rleiITly viSible Though cars once
hned neMly iI mile of Riverside Road,
while curious Sightseer" came 10 Inspect
the disilsler scene, the pitSSln!' rno­
tOMstS'todav pily ~can t Jtten tlon to the
'>Itc of one of Uhlo's most spectacular
geolop;lc cataclysms.
{,Wh'$ I