CLEVELAND — They’re icons of Cleveland. The guardians of transportation; standing watch over the city.
They’re a symbol of strength and a source of pride here in Northeast Ohio. Most recently, they’re the inspiration behind the city’s Major League Baseball team changing its name.
But for Eugene Fiocca, the 43-foot-tall sculptures hold an even heavier meaning. His father, Coriolano Fiocca was one of the stonemasons who helped large the larger-than-life statues, etching himself into history long before the statues carved a home in our hearts.
“We certainly would tell our friends that when you go to Cleveland, make sure that you see those,” Eugene said. “Papa carved those. They did the detail work on the faces and the modes of transportation.”
The sandstone giants have stood guard over traffic flowing on the Hope Memorial Bridge since 1932.
“It must be a great satisfaction that he did something that is still recognized as being a positive thing in this world,” Eugene said.
So positive, in fact, that when Cleveland’s baseball franchise, a charter member of the American League, was looking for inspiration for a new nickname, they turned to local infrastructure. The source: statues that stand in the shadow of Progressive Field.
“I was very proud that they were really recognized as an important part of Cleveland,” Eugene said.
But back then, when the statues were built, it wasn’t always that way. The bridge, when first opened, was simply known as the Lorain-Carnegie bridge. Their popularity rocketing to stardom in recent years no thanks to photo-centric apps like Instagram.
“He didn’t get the chance to experience the popularity of it,” Eugene said. “We never thought of them as guardians particularly but if that keeps the name alive, we’re very happy with that.
As for the Art-Deco displays that stand watch over the city, so far, they’ve withstood the test of time. Whenever Eugene gets a chance, he likes to share his connection to the city.
“I like to think I’m a reputable source,” he said with a laugh. “I think people take some pride in knowing if they know me, there’s some connection to things that are iconic like that, that will be around long after any of us are passed.”
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