HERBERT HENRY DOW, a member of the Case School of Applied Science Class of 1888, recruited his classmate James T. Pardee to join him in creating the firm that became Dow Chemical Company. Dow was reaching out to a talented and trusted friend who would become a major leader in the company’s development. He could not have known that he was interrupting the career of one of the nation’s most promising bridge designers.
A native of Cleveland, Pardee had earned his degree at Case in civil engineering and had gone to work in the City Engineer’s office, where he rapidly rose to the rank of engineer of bridges and viaducts. This was a key position in an industrial community located on a major lake and bisected by a river crowded with a wide range of boats used for freight, passengers, and pleasure.
Bridges can also be controversial. A dispute over the placement and function of a span over the Cuyahoga River at Columbus Street in the area now known as The Flats had sparked the 1837 “bridge wars” between Cleveland and Ohio City, an independent entity at that time. Ironically, Pardee’s final bridge project in Cleveland was a successor to the original Columbus Street Bridge. That bridge, the first double-swing bridge of its type ever built in the U.S., stood until it was replaced by a lift bridge in 1940.
“On the afternoon of August 15, 1895, we opened Columbus Street Bridge in Cleveland, just completed under my direction,” he said many years later. “As it swung into place and the gates opened, there stood Herbert Dow, who had come… to request me to join him in forming a new company for developing the manufacture of chlorine by an electrolytic process he had invented.” Pardee accepted the offer, and in a 1897 meeting at Cleveland’s East End Bank he joined Dow and the three other partners in the firm, including President Cady Staley and Professor Albert Smith of Case, to get the company organized and financed.
Pardee became secretary and vice president of Dow, and was for many years the principal advocate of the Case School of Applied Science among its many alumni working at Dow. He was himself a generous contributor to the Case School, and was a member of its Board of Trustees from 1934 until his death in 1944. His bequest to the institution was at the time the largest contribution in the school’s history since the founding gift by Leonard Case, Jr., in 1880.
Pardee Hall, the second residence hall at Case Institute of Technology, opened in 1953 as a near-twin to Yost Hall, built in 1951. Pardee Hall was demolished in 1999. While Pardee is best known nationally and internationally for his leadership at Dow, his designs have been helping Clevelanders get together for more than a century.
The illustrations reproduced in this display are based on copies of original drawings that were provided by the City of Cleveland’s Division of Engineering and Construction. Thanks go to Jennifer E. Puin, Ph.D., now Assistant Director of the Center for Research and Scholarship at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, for the initial research into these materials.