Fairlawn resident Laura McVan Shawlson got a bit riled up when she learned the Guinness Book of World Records claims that the steepest street in the world is in Harlech, Wales.
“I say no way,” she exclaimed. “There is a video on CNN that looks nowhere near as steep as Cadillac Hill. They say the slope is 37.45 percent. Prove them wrong!”
Well, I'll try.
If you're not up on your Akron lore, Cadillac Hill, technically known as Bates Street, is just west of downtown Akron. It runs south off West Market Street, starting across from Dave Towell Cadillac, winding up a modest hill and then plunging down to Glendale Cemetery.
Hate to break this to you, Laura: Although a picture may be worth 1,000 words, those words aren't always accurate. When you photograph or video a steep street, it tends to flatten out.
In comparison to the street in Wales, our legendary mountain is a molehill. The city says Caddy has a grade of “only” 28 percent, 9 less than the one across the pond.
Brace yourself, Laura, because the news gets even worse: Cadillac Hill, a true Akron landmark, has temporarily ceased to exist.
Today it is closed to traffic and pedestrians.
Just past the “Road Closed” and “Sidewalk Closed” signs placed about a third of the way down the enormous slope, waist-high weeds obscure much of the rough brick surface. Near the bottom, a huge fallen tree limb spans the road.
Our culprit in all of this: the massive $1.2 billion, EPA-mandated project to keep untreated wastewater from overflowing into the Cuyahoga River and nearby streams.
The street was closed because a large, fenced-in construction site rose up near the bottom of the hill alongside the Martin Luther King Freeway. That area is directly involved with the sewer project's centerpiece, the Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel, dug by Rosie, Akron's tunnel-boring beast.
Now, the good news: Cadillac Hill will eventually reopen, probably late next spring.
It had better. The permanent demise of a legendary piece of Akron would have caused rioting in the streets. OK, maybe not. But it certainly would have drawn the wrath of Chrissie Hynde and David Giffels, among others.
What a history this street has. Beacon Journal archives say the nickname originated because of the aforementioned Cadillac dealership, which has been there since the early 20th century. Cadillac was the first automaker to offer production cars with V8 engines, and in the early 1920s the salespeople would use the hill to illustrate how powerful those new engines were.
For the record, Cadillac Hill has nothing to do with the Springsteen song “Cadillac Ranch.” But multiple local musicians have written songs about it, singing its praises and warning of its dangers.
Now here's something cool that I hadn't heard before. Nor had Akron's deputy mayor for administration, Annie McFadden, until she waded into the topic at my request.
“Interesting fact that I just learned myself: Every fourth course is granite stone and raised one inch above the brick for better traction. For this reason it was also known to earlier Akronites as ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’ ”
Well, I don't know how heavenly it is. During a snowstorm, it seems downright devilish.
OK, I can hear you: "Bob, what about the dreaded Smith Road hill coming out of the Merriman Valley?" Forget it. Even its steepest portion has a mere 14 percent grade.
Smith, the most overrated hill in town. No songs for you.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31