There is a misconception about how a person should define a house bridge, for the appearance of such a structure in the eyes of both Americans and Europeans alike are different. In America, we think of a house bridge like a covered bridge- a small house-like structure with a gabled roof and entrances on both ends. These covered bridges are easy to find in America, for they are numerous and popular among tourists, and many state transportation departments take great care of them to ensure that they are attractive to see and safe to cross.
In Europe however, despite the fact that one can find covered bridges everywhere, including the Alps and local places mostly unknown to tourists, our definition of a house bridge is different. Unlike the covered bridges, a house bridge is defined as a bridge which holds buildings but the passage is open-aired, meaning you cannot cross these bridges just by walking through the buildings, but through these passage ways that have no roofs above them.
Many of these house bridges were built during and after the Medieval times, including the Rialto Bridge in Venice or the famous London Bridge before its relocation to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1967. But in Germany, we have the Kraemerbruecke, located in the heart of the country in the city of Erfurt, and the third part of the series on Erfurt’s bridges focuses on this particular structure.
The Kraemerbruecke was first mentioned in the record books in 1117 as a wooden bridge crossing the Breitstrom section of the Gera River connecting Fischmarkt on the west end and the Wenige Markt market square on the east end. While it was rebuilt at least six times due to fires, the municipality in 1293 acquired all rights from the monasteries that had owned the bridge and built a permanent structure featuring stone arches supporting timber stands and gated church towers on each end- St. Benedict on the west end and St. Aegidian on the east side, the latter of which still stands today. After a fire in 1472 which destroyed half of the city and severely damaged the bridge, it was then decided to construct timber houses across the bridge, using trusses to support them and whose height rose to three stories. A total of 68 houses were built on each side of the bridge, allowing passage space of up to 5.5 meters for people and goods to cross. A story was once mentioned that there was one way passage across the bridge- going eastward only in the morning and westward in the afternoon, with those wanting to go against the scheduled flow of traffic being left with no choice but to ford the river located next to the bridge. While this rule no longer exists, crossing the bridge today, one can see the narrow passage, together with the huge masses of people going in and out of the shops that exist.
Today’s bridge is no different than the one that existed during the Medieval Ages. There are fewer houses on the bridge, but mainly due to owners consolidating them to provide more space and housing. Work on the bridge was done in three phases: restoring the houses between 1967 and 1973, reconstructing the arches and vaults in 1986, and reinforcing the bridge and the housing in 2002. Despite this, the bridge is one of the darlings of the city of Erfurt. It is the only bridge of its kind north of the Alps on the European Mainland. There are a few house bridges remaining that exist, like the Bridgehouse in Ambleside and the Pulteney Bridge in Bath (both in the UK), and the aforementioned Rialto Bridge in Venice, however the Kraemerbruecke today represents an example of a bridge with multiple-story housing that still has businesses and residences. A festival honoring the structure takes place every year in June, where hundreds of thousands of people visit the bridge. It is an integral part of the city’s annual Christmas market, taking place between the end of November and right before Christmas Eve.
And even on a regular business day, thousands cross this bridge to see the many stores that offer local specialties and unique items worth taking with to show family and friends. This includes the Thuringian shop near the Aegidean Tower, which sells wine, mustard, and other goods. Across the passage is the famous Erfurt Brueckentrueffel shop, which sells thimble-shaped bridge truffles made of dark chocolate and other ingredients that are made by hand and using local products. There is the left-hand-shop located near the middle of the bridge, which sells products made solely for left-handed people. Also on the bridge are a pair of souvenir shops, a café offering local wines, an art gallery and the Kraemerbruecke Stiftung, a foundation devoted strictly to the bridge and its importance to the city of Erfurt. And if one has an appetite, there is the Kraemerbruecke Cafe located on the site of the former St. Benedict tower (the tower was razed in 1810), which offers a wide array of local pastries.
If you happen to visit Thuringia someday, or happen to pass through its capital of Erfurt, and ask someone about the places that should be visited, do not be surprised if nine out of ten residents say that the Kraemerbruecke is a must-see apart from the Cathedral, the market squares and the churches. This Medieval bridge has survived many fires and bombings to become an even more attractive place to see than ever before. It has earned its place as an integral part of the city and its history, and in light of the most recent bridge festival, it stands out as part of Germany’s heritage, which will surely be considered a World Heritage site. It is a bridge that every pontist and bridge photographer should see once in his/her life, and learn about. While each city has its own bridge representing a part of its history- New York City with the Brooklyn Bridge, San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge, London with Tower Bridge and Berlin with both the Oberbaum-Bridge and the Jungfern pedestrian bridge, Erfurt has its Kraemerbruecke, the greatest and most popular of the 258 bridges that serve the city of 400,000 inhabitants.
According to Vockrodt in a publication on Pont Habités, part of the European Bridge Culture (published in 2011), approximately 30 house bridges were built between the 13th and 18th centuries, with the majority of them located in Paris. The Parisians built at least five of these bridges over the Seine, including the Pont Notre Dame, Quai de Gevres, Pont aux Meuniers, Pont au Change and Pont Marchand. All of these bridges were either destroyed by fire or lost their houses to demolition. The largest of the house bridges in Europe was the Pont Notre Dame, which featured two bridges crossing the Seine and the island where the Cathedral of Norte Dame was located, with houses of 3-4 stories high.
Now that the tour of Erfurt’s bridges is complete, the last two segments will feature a book review and the interview with Vockrodt and Baumbach about the bridges in the city.
The next part of the bridge tour of Erfurt brings us to the bridges in the Inner City. What is meant by the Inner City? When we look at the historical map of the city of Erfurt, one will see that Erfurt was surrounded by two walls that were used to protect the city and its many churches from attacks from the outside. The first wall was constructed between 1141 and 1255, and it featured the Wild Gera River flowing around it. It was known as the inner wall and today, parts of it can be seen as drivers can bypass the inner city via Yuri-Gagarin Ring, which used to be the river before it was filled completely by 1898. It was fortified with another wall constructed between 1373 and 1500, which extended along what is now the Flutgraben on the eastern end , terminating at the northern edge at what is now called Little Venice, consisting of all the streams of the Gera converging into one and featuring at least five bridges. Five boroughs occupied the areas between the walls called Vorstadt and extended along the south and east end. The northwestern edge of the Inner City features the Petersburg Citadel, located on the hill overlooking the entire city. A bridge on the east side leads to the main gate of the former fort complex.
After looking at the bridges on the far ends of the greater Erfurt area, this segment focuses on the remaining bridges in the inner part of Erfurt. Apart from the Petersburg Citadel Bridge, the main focus will be on the remaining bridges along the east end of the Flutgraben, the Bergstrom and Walkstrom that flows through the city and three bridges just to the north of the inner city. The Kraemerbruecke will be featured in the next part of the series as it has a story of its own. Bridge 1: Kraempfertor Bruecke
Location: Flutgraben on Leipziger Strasse at Kraempfertor Gate
Type: One-span closed spandrel arch bridge made of brick.
Built: 1895 replacing an older stone arch bridge. Widened and renovated in 1999
The construction and reconstruction of the Kraempfertor Bruecke are rather unique separate stories that deserve recognition. The first structure dated as far back as the 1100s as it crossed the Wild Gera River at the entrance to the inner city. Unfortunately, the two-span arch bridge was demolished at the time when the Wild Gera was being rechanneled, which also coincided with the construction of the new bridge over the new channel (today called Flutgraben). Workers spent an average of 15 hours building a temporary bridge and tearing down the old structure. Constructing the new abutments and adding the single span arch bridge made of limestone blocks brought a lot of difficulties. But nevertheless, the new bridge was completed in five months, opening to traffic in December 1895. The reconstruction of the bridge occurred 103 years later as part of the plan to widen the street and extend the streetcar network to include the University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule) and Ringelberg in the far east end of town. There, the original bridge was stripped down to the bare arch, rebuilt using the original materials, while at the same time, workers constructed a new bridge that would resemble the 1895 structure on the east end, fitting the two together. The process took over a year to complete. On the outside, the bridge looks like the original 1895 structure, but looking at it more closely, the difference in the materials used for rebuilding the bridge can be seen, especially underneath the arch. The bridge also features cast iron lamps, making it almost similar to the Pfoertchenbruecke in the south of the city, and the seal of the city can be found on the railing at the center of the span, each side marking the date of construction (north railing) and rehabilitation (south railing). The structure definitely belongs to one of the most beautiful bridges in the city, ranking it up there with its southern counterpart, the Kraemerbruecke and the Hollernzollernbruecke.
Location: Flutgraben at Meyfarthstrasse
Type: One-span closed spandrel arch bridge made of sandstone and brick
Built: 1907, rehabilitated in 1997.
This bridge is probably one of the most unrecognized of the arch bridges that serve the city of Erfurt. It was built using sandstone, which has a quick hardening process and was placed on top of the brick arch skeleton that had been constructed in 1906, thus creating a closed spandrel feature consisting of concrete made of sand stone supported by the brick arch. The bridge was renovated in 1996/7 due to cracks in the spandrels and railings. The bridge originally was part of Meyfarthstrasse before it was closed to traffic in 1996 and converted to a parking lot for cars. The reason was due to the thoroughfare of the Outer Ring, the city wanted to smooth the traffic between the Schmiedstedt and Kraempfertor Bridges by eliminating one intersection deemed obsolete and a hindrance to traffic. While one cannot see the bridge today from the Outer Ring, one can access the structure by foot by parking at the Kraempfertorbruecke and walking along the Flutgraben, which takes only three minutes.
Location: Flutgraben at the intersection Yuri-Gagarin-Ring and Franckestrasse
Type: One-span closed spandrel arch bridge made of brick
Built: 1898 replacing a bridge at the Wild Gera crossing
The origins of the Franckebruecke go as far back as the 1700s, when a wooden bridge crossed the Wild Gera River. The appearance of the bridge resembled a simple beam bridge and had very little meaning for the inner city. That changed with the rechanneling of the river and as a consequence, the construction of the Flutgraben crossing in 1898. Between 1898 and the removal of the Wild Gera crossing in 1900 (as it was being filled in), two bridges served Franckestrasse, providing access the northeastern part of the town and St. Augustine’s Church. Today, the 1898 span still serves this purpose.
Note: Pope Benedict XVI held a church service at St. Augustine’s Church as part of his tour through Erfurt. An article from sister column Flensburg Files can be found here.
Location: Flutgraben at Schlueterstrasse
Type: One-span closed spandrel stone arch bridge
Although the bridge did not appear in the records, it seemed to have two purposes: one is a roadway bridge that originally served as Schlueterstrasse before it was bypassed by a beam bridge, the other used to be a dam that regulated the flow of water from the Wild Gera when the river was navigable. It lost both purposes but today still serves as a pedestrian bridge and a point of interest. The present beam bridge serves one-way traffic going towards the Yuri-Gagarin-Ring. The Institute of Architecture and City Planning of the University of Applied Sciences is located across the street adjacent to the stone arch bridge.
Bridge 5: Karlsbruecke
Location: Gera River on Karlstrasse
Type: One-span molded spandrel concrete arch bridge made of shell limestone
Built: 1911, cast iron nostalgic gas lanterns installed in 1912
Of the bridges that were built between the Inner City and Gispersleben, this structure is perhaps the most attractive, especially with regards to its design and its ornamental features. The deck arch design features a rather unique spandrel form where it is molded inwards, making it a cross between an open and a closed spandrel arch bridge. It is the only bridge in Erfurt that has this feature, but it is a common type one can find in Thuringia and parts of Germany. In fact, the next bridge with this feature is a railroad viaduct over the Ilm River in the town of Ilmtal, located 30 km southwest of Erfurt on the Erfurt-Saalfeld Railline. The other feature are the ornamental lanterns made of cast iron that were installed after the completion of the bridge. It was one of the first bridges that featured gas powered lanterns, which were in service until they were replaced with mercury-vapor lamps in the 1950s, presenting a rather greenish-white color. To the distaste of many Erfurters living in the city, these lamps were replaced with sodium lamps in the 1990s, which presented a more yellowish-orange color. The bridge is one of a few remaining pre-1945 arch bridges that has not been rehabilitated yet, even though it still retains its structural and aesthetic integrity, but according to Baumbach and Vockrodt, that status will not remain that way any longer. Plans are in the making to renovate the entire structure as soon as funding is available. This will include reintroducing the gas-powered lanterns that were the darlings of this unique bridge. If all goes well, rehabilitating the structure can begin as early as next year and will take 2-3 years to complete.
Bridge 6: Lange Bruecke
Location: Walkstrom Creek at Lange Bruecke in the inner city
Type: Two-span closed spandrel arch bridge made of sandstone
Built: 1830 replacing structures dating back to the 1300s
The Lange Bruecke is located at the confluence of the Bergstrom and Walkstrom in the southwest part of the city center. The first known structure dates back to 1293 where there was one bridge crossing the confluence, and whose length is double that of today’s Lange Bruecke (17.9 meters). Today, there are two crossings, one over the Walkstrom near Karthaeuser Mill and one over the Bergstrom north of the former crossing. Both bridges consisted of two-span arch bridges: the Walkstrom Bridge was a stone arch structure built in 1880 but was replaced with a steel beam bridge in 1908. The Bergstrom Bridge was built using sandstone and was rehabilitated in 1991 to make it appear exactly as it was when it was built in 1830. The bridge can be seen from the Nonnensteg, a pedestrian bridge located only 20 meters east of the bridge and one which provides access to the mill today. The appearance of the sandstone arch bridge and its surroundings, as seen in the pic, make it appear like one is in Venice or Florence- a picturesque view worth seeing.
Bridge 7: Rossbruecke
Location: Walkstrom Creek at Hermannsplatz
Type: Two-span closed spandrel arch bridge made of sandstone brick
Built: 1750 replacing a bridge from the 1600s, renovated in 1994
The Ross Bridge is located about two minutes’ walk from the famous Erfurt Cathedral on the main street going north to Rieth and the University. Judging by the records and sketches, the Ross Bridge is the third oldest structure that exists in the city behind the Schutzturmschleuse Bridge and the Kraemerbruecke. Before it was constructed in 1750, there was a previous structure consisting of a two-span arch bridge but presents an arch in the roadway and railings. Records show that the bridge existed as far back as 1675, but it may have existed even before that. As there was a demand for a bridge to accommodate horse and buggy, it was probably the main reason why the current bridge was built in its place. It served traffic until 1993 when the structure became so unstable that it was restricted to one lane and strict weight restrictions. It was remodeled to widen the structure by 1.65 meters and strengthen the arches. The sandstone brick was redone and reconstructed to make it appear like the bridge that existed when it was first opened in 1750. The bridge today serves traffic with a 20 ton weight limit but it is a site to see for many passers-by.
Bridge 8: Schlosserbruecke
Location: Breitstrom/ Gera River at Schlosserstrasse between Fischmarkt and Anger
Type: Stone arch bridge made of limestone
Built: 1736; rebuilt in 1949 after sustaining considerable damage in World War II
The history of this bridge runs parallel to the Neue Muehle mill, located just to the south of the bridge. Records showed that both existed in the 1300s but there was no concrete date as to when the first structure was built, let alone the mill itself. Prior to World War II, the bridge had a total of seven arches, which allowed the water to flow freely from the mill downstream towards the Kraemerbruecke. However, the bridge was nearly destroyed during the bombing of Erfurt on 26 November, 1944, which completely destroyed the mill itself as well as many churches and buildings, including the Reibstein retail store building, located at the bridge’s entrance. The bridge was rebuilt in 1947 and 49 respectively, in which it was widened and graded, while at the same time, half the arches were eliminated to a point where today, three arches on the south side and four on the north side exist, making it resemble a dam. The bridge is still used by many kayakers boating through the city center between this bridge and the Kraemerbruecke, while all but two streetcar lines cross this bridge, including all north-south routes and the route connecting the train station and the Airport at Bindersleben in the west end of the city.
Bridge 9: Meister-Eckehart-Bruecke
Location: Breitstrom /Gera River at Meister-Eckehart-Strasse
Type: Three-span stone arch bridge made of limestone
Built: 1937 replacing a wooden bridge built in 1870
The Eckehart Bridge is the youngest of the arch bridges that existed in Erfurt. Named after a German mystic that lived in the Middle Ages (1260- 1328) and whose church was named after him, the origin of the bridge featured a three-span beam bridge with Y-shaped piers that was first mentioned in 1870. At that time, the street was known as Casinostrasse. When the bridge was deemed unsafe, plans were in the making for a steel bridge, but the demand for the material resulted in the construction of the bridge made of limestone, built in 1937 by a company in Erfurt known as Kernchen and Company. The bridge and the street were renamed in honor of the aforementioned person and one can see the name on the bridge’s stone railings. The structure still exists today, but it is very difficult to photograph the bridge from the side, as one can see in the pics. The bridge is located next to two important points of interest: The Barfuss-Kirche (Church of Bare Feet) and the catholic school, the former of which was destroyed in World War II and can be seen as a ruin today.
Bridge 10: Petersberg Citadel Bridge
Location: Petersberg Citadel 100 meters north of Domplatz Square and the Erfurt Cathedral
Type: eight-span stone arch bridge made of red brick and limestone
Built: 1838 as a beam bridge; converted into arch form in 1864; renovated in 1990
The history of the last bridge in this part of the series goes as far back as the 1670 even though the citadel itself goes as far back as the city itself. It was first mentioned in the eighth century, where Dagobert III, king of Franconia, established a church on the hill overlooking the town in 706. Between 706 and when the Prussians took over in 1803, many churches and monasteries occupied this hill, one of which- the St. Peter and Paul monastery was the starting point of today’s university that was founded in 1392. The University of Erfurt would later be relocated to the northern part of the city and was refounded first as a teaching institution in 1950 and as a liberal arts institution in 1991. The fort was first developed in 1665 through an agreement with the archbishops with the purpose of protecting the city and maintaining it as one of the most important trading posts in Europe.
This is when the bridge was first mentioned with the construction of a wooden viaduct in 1670, which led to the east gate of the citadel. It was reinforced with concrete piers in 1831, but the real work came in 1864, when the whole structure was converted into a brick and limestone arch bridge, featuring eight arches. With the exception of renovations done in 1992, the Petersberg Citadel Bridge still retains its structural integrity and is an integral part of the citadel. Although the citadel is still used by the military to this day, it is a tourist attraction as tens of thousands visit the place to view the entire city and the cathedral. Many festivals take place at the citadel and even the state archives and the historical society are found here today.
While each of the bridges profiled here are unique in themselves and contribute a great deal to the city’s history, the granddaddy of the bridges in Erfurt can be found in the next article of the Erfurt Bridges series, which is the Kraemerbruecke. There is a reason why this bridge deserves to be a standalone profile….
Yosemite National Park. Located in eastern California between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento, this park is known for its seven mile long Yosemite Valley, The Half Dome, El Capitan and the 740 meter tall Yosemite Falls. It was the first park that preserved its natural scenery when the park opened in 1864. It is also famous for its eight rustic stone arch bridges, most of them were built over the Merced River and five of which were built in 1928 (the rest were constructed between 1921 and 1932). Four million people visit the park every year and in order to maintain the sustainable growth of tourist in the region, the National Park Service recently unveiled a management plan for the Merced River valley. Unfortunately, it may come at the expense of three of the stone arch bridges, as they would be removed.
Yet there is hope for the stone arch bridges. Each year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation nominates eleven of the most endangered historic places in the United States and its territories with a goal of providing support and offering alternatives to protect these places for generations to come. The bridges at Yosemite National Park were one of the 11 historic places considered most endangered for this year’s award. The eight bridge examples represent a major problem with managing the structures while at the same time, sustain the growth of tourism in the region. The goal with these bridges is to find a way to protect them from alteration as part of the modernization plan, while at the same time, raise awareness of how to protect these structures that are part of the National Wild and Scenic River Way.
To provide you with a better description of what the bridges look like, here is a summary of the eight bridges that one can see at Yosemite and hopefully will see in the future, should the National Park Service cooperate with other parties and organizations in preserving all of them:
The Yosemite Creek Bridge is the oldest, carrying the North Road and spanning Yosemite Creek below Yosemite Falls. Built in 1922, it spans 50 feet (15 m) in a single arch of reinforced concrete faced with granite. The bridge is 24 feet (7.3 m) wide, and was built at a cost of $32,000. The bridge originally featured lanterns on the buttresses at either end of the bridge.It replaced an earlier bridge, referred to as “the little red bridge.”
The Ahwanee Bridge was built in 1928 across the Merced with three arches, one spanning 42 feet (13 m) and the others spanning 39 feet (12 m), for a total length of 122 feet (37 m). The bridge is 39 feet (12 m) wide with a 27 feet (8.2 m) roadway, a 5 feet (1.5 m) sidewalk and a 7 feet (2.1 m) bridle path. It carries the Mirror Lake Road, framing a view of Half Dome for eastbound traffic. Cost was $59,913.09.
The Clark Bridge was also built in 1928 with a single 75.5-foot (23.0 m) semi-elliptical main span flanked by two round-arched subways for horse-and-rider traffic, 7 feet (2.1 m) wide by 11 feet (3.4 m) high through the bridge’s abutments. Cost was $40,061.22. The bridge carries the 27-foot (8.2 m) Curry Stables Road, a 5 feet (1.5 m) sidewalk and a 7 feet (2.1 m) bridle path.
The Pohono Bridge (1928) spans 80 feet (24 m), carrying the 27-foot (8.2 m) El Portal Road and a 5 feet (1.5 m) bridle path, at a cost of $29,081.55.
The Sugar Pine Bridge (1928), also historically known as the Kenneyville Bridge No. 2, spans 106 feet (32 m) at a five-degree skew across the river, with a 27-foot (8.2 m) roadway, a 5-foot (1.5 m) sidewalk and a 7-foot (2.1 m) sidewalk. It carries the Mirror Lake Road. The longest span of the eight bridges, the cost was $73,507.44. The bridge was named for a large sugar pine that grew to the north of the east bridge abutment.
The Tenaya Creek Bridge (1928) spans Tenaya Creek with a single 56.75-foot (17.30 m) arch at a 25-degree skew on the Happy Isles-Mirror Lake Road. The bridge carries the standard roadway, bridle path and sidewalk. Cost was $37,749.16.
The Happy Isles Bridge on the Happy Isles Road was built in 1929 with one span of 75 feet (23 m) and two equestrian subways in its abutments similar to those of the Clark Bridge, its near twin. The bridge’s total length is 126 feet (38 m). Cost was $46,673.03.
The Stoneman Bridge (1933) resembles the Clark and Happy Isles bridges, with a 72-foot (22 m) main span carrying a 27-foot (8.2 m) road and two 6-foot (1.8 m) sidewalks. The equestrian subways in the abutments were slightly enlarged in width to 8.5 feet (2.6 m) and were extended out from the surface of the wing walls for greater emphasis. It is located at the Camp Curry intersection. Cost was $71,675.08.The bridge replaced a wooden bridge that had carried the former “Royal Arch Avenue” to the Stoneman Hotel, which had been demolished by the 1920s. Construction on the bridge was built by Sullivan and Sullivan of Oakland, California, but was terminated when the Bureau of Public Roads lost confidence in the contractor’s ability to carry out the work. The bridge was completed by the Portland, Oregon firm of Kueckenberg & Wittman.
Note: Information courtesy of wikipedia. More details can be found here.
The Bridges of Yosemite are not the first bridges to be placed on the 11 Most Endangered List. Here is a list of past bridges that were listed as well as the report of what has happened to them.
Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, Florida: This unique bridge was nominated in 1997 as the bridge deteriorated to a point where demolition became an option. However, the citizens rallied for support for saving the bridge, which happened in 2011 through six years of extensive renovation.
Stillwater Bridge in Stillwater, Minnesota: A jewel for the city on the St. Croix, the bridge was nominated in 1997 which resulted in a resolution to convert the bridge into a pedestrian bridge upon completion of the new Stillwater Bridge 5 kilometers south of the city in 2016. A win-win situation for the city and its neighbor Houlton, Wisconsin.
The first part of the tour looks at the bridges outside the inner part of the state capital of Thuringia. To specify on what is meant by the outskirts of Erfurt, one has to take a look at the map of Erfurt and the streams that flow through the city. The city got its name from its location on the ford of the Gera River, which is divided into three parts: the Bergstrom, the Walkstrom and the Wild Gera. As the city was prone to flooding, the city in 1890 passed a resolution, calling for the re-channeling of the Wild Gera to the south and east of the city center. The project took eight years and the Wild Gera was filled in to a point where today, the Yuri Gagarin Ring, the inner ring encircling the city center, occupies what was the river. The historic bridges featured in this column will focus on the southern end of the new channel, called Flutgraben just south of the main rail lines that enter Erfurt Main Station. Furthermore bridges to the south and west of Erfurt, including the ones at Luisenpark as well as four located north and east of Erfurt will be featured. A map with the specific locations of the bridge appears with the first bridge profile so you have an idea where they are located. You’ll find the pictures when clicking on the highlighted words, including those on Instagram.
One has to keep in mind that the bridges in Erfurt that are featured in the next three columns are the ones that are at least 100 years old, most of them being arch bridges made of concrete, brick, and/or stone. A couple exceptions are mentioned.
Map of Erfurt with the Bridges for Part I:
Bridge 1: Schmidtstedt Bridges
Location: Flutgraben east of Erfurt Main Station at the intersection of the Outer Ring and Thaelmannstrasse.
Type: Three-span arch bridge (rail span) and three beam spans: one for vehicular traffic and two for pedestrians. One of the spans can be viewed here.
Built: 1972 for vehicular bridge replacing an arch bridge built in 1895; 1895 for rail bridge- partially replaced in 2010.
The original Schmiedstedt Bridges were one of the first structures built over the new channel of the Gera River. The railroad bridge consisted of three spans of a closed spandrel arch design made of quarry rock and served the rail line connecting Leipzig and points to the south and west. The roadway bridge served as a key link between the train station and what is today a technical university to the north. Yet during the 1970s, the increase in traffic volume warranted the reconstruction of the key intersection. Therefore, the roadway bridge was replaced with a beam bridge with two additional pedestrian bridges being erected to the south of the bridge- one to cross the river and the main highway and one for the river enroute to the railroad bridge. As part of the plan to expand the rail service, especially with regards to the new ICE-line connecting Berlin and Nuremberg via Erfurt, the southern half of the railroad bridge was replaced and expanded, while the northern half still maintains its aesthetic value to this day. This can be seen in its entirety from the pedestrian bridge crossing the bridge and the river.
Bridge 2: Riethstrasse-/ Bahnhofsbrücke
Location: Riethstrasse over the Gera River in the northern suburbs of Erfurt
Type: Parker-Bowstring pony truss bridge with riveted and bolted connections
Built: 1892 at the location of the Erfurt Main Station; moved to its present location in 1912
Located just to the south of the Main Station over the Flutgraben, the steel bowstring arch bridge was built to serve traffic going directly to the city center of Anger. The bridge lasted only 20 years at this location for a wider structure was needed to accommodate not only horse and buggy but also the street cars that went across the bridge going south and west. It was replaced by a concrete arch bridge in 1912, but the truss bridge was relocated to its present site in 1912, where it still serves traffic today but with certain weight and height restrictions. The concrete arch structure was replaced in 2004 as part of the project to renovate the train station and make the surrounding infrastructure more accessible for streetcars, buses and pedestrians alike.
Bridge 3: Pförtchenbrücke
Location: Pförtchenstrasse over the Flutgraben
Type: Closed spandrel arch bridge made of sandstone, limestone and chalk with ornamental features
Built: 1897 replacing a wooden bridge built in 1875.
The origin of this bridge came from one of the towers that existed in the 13th century, where horse and buggy and people could enter and leave the walled city from Steigerwald Forest and Dreibrunnenfeld Field both located to the south and west of the city. The city itself was a walled fortress until the 1890s when the new channel was built replacing the Wild Gera and the gates and towers were proven to be obsolete. However, the bridge was not based on the tower, which no longer exists. It is based on the street it carries. The bridge also served street car traffic which started with horse and tram (Pferdebahn) in 1883 and was followed by the electric street car in 1894. The line, which connected the northern suburb of Illversgehofen and the southern natural area, was later made obsolete by the line passing through Erfurt Main Station.
Today’s bridge is one of the most unique of the bridges serving Erfurt as well as the state of Thuringia. Built in 1897, it is characterized by four towers with vintage lanterns supported by ornamental candelabras. Built using limestone, sandstone and chalk, the outer features are covered by ornamental shields found on each end of the span, while its balustrades resemble a typical arch or concrete beam bridge built in the 1900s in the USA. The year it was built can be found on the outer end of the bridge in the middle of the balustrade. The bridge was renovated twice: in 1988 when the towers, obelisks, and candelabras were carefully renovated, and in 1997/8 when the bridge itself was reinforced to support more traffic with the shield and other ornamental features being redone. Today the bridge serves the two main highways passing through Erfurt: B7 which is a east-west route connecting Weimar, Jena and Eisenach and B4, a north-south route connecting Nordhausen and Suhl. It still retains its beauty after a pair of cosmetic operations and is a must see while visiting the city, no matter what time of day it is.
Bridge 4: Hollernzollernbrücke
Location: Alfred-Hess-Strasse over the Flutgraben
Type: Closed-spandrel arch bridge with a two-part Korbbogen feature. The arch bridge is a brick arch form. Sculptures on each end of the bridge
Built: 1912 Restored in 1992
In order to provide better access to the Dreierbrunnenpark (now the present-day Luisenpark), the city of Erfurt let the contract out to a firm in Leipzig called Alban Vetterlein and Company, whose branch office was located in Erfurt in May 1911. Construction took almost two years as the city wanted to make the bridge an attractive piece of artwork that was part of the city park. Henceforth, they hired Carl Mellville (1875-1957), a teacher of the school of art, to construct four different sculptures on each corner of the bridge, two per gender and each representing a different form of artwork. The bridge still retains its structural and aesthetic integrity today, even though renovations had to be made to the structure in 1992 to make it more structurally sound and keep the sculptures from eroding due to weather extremities and air pollution caused by the industry during the Cold War period which was being shut down after German reunification.
Bridge 5: Wilhelmsteg and Friedrichsteg
Location: Over the Flutgraben at Richard-Breslau-Strasse (Friedrichsteg) and Gerhardt-Hauptmann-Strasse (Wilhelmsteg)
Type: Open-spandrel arch bridge with ornamental railings
Built: 1897 (Friedrichsteg) and 1898 (Wilhelmsteg)
There are two characteristics that make these bridges special. Both of them are the only arch bridges of its type serving the city. And both of them serve pedestrians and cyclists. Both were constructed using sandstone and lime thus resembling a tan-colored appearance. The difference between the two are that the roadway is curved in the Wilhelmsteg, whereas in the Friedrichsteg, the roadway is bent upwards in a slant, making a point at the center of the span. Furthermore, unlike the Wilhelmsteg, the Friedrichsteg is one of only a handful of arch bridges that has both an open and closed spandrel design. The Wilhelmsteg is an open spandrel arch. While the Wilhelmsteg was renovated in 2002, the Friedrichsteg still retains its original appearance although renovation will most likely happen in a few years. Both serve the Gera Bike Trail leading to Luisenpark and all points to the south and west.
Bridge 6: Schutzturmschleuse Brücke/Damm
Location: Over the Breitstrom Creek at Strasse des Friedens
Type: Four-span stone arch bridge that functions as a dam
To provide protection for the city against floods from the Gera River, a series of dams and locks were built in the 1600s to control the flow of water going through the inner part of the city. This was one of them, a contraption featuring a stone arch bridge for people to use that also functions as a dam that was originally located outside the outermost walls of Erfurt. It only functioned partially as problems with water being dammed up causing flooding upstream in areas where the Luisenpark is now located prompted a more permanent solution in the 1890s, which was re-channeling the river. In 1899 an electric street car line was established on the bridge, only to be removed 60 years later. The bridge today still serves traffic while at the same time, functions as a dam even though the is not much river flow through the city thanks to the Flutgraben that now encircles the city center.
Bridge 7: The Luisenpark Bridges
As many as seven bridges cross the Gera River and the tributaries of the Bergstrom and Walkstrom Creeks. Yet two of them stand out as ones that are worth seeing. We have the covered bridge known as the Hospitalsteg, a pedestrian crossing that used to cross the Wild Gera before the river was rechanneled. It was built using a queenpost truss design but after the Wild Gera was filled in, the bridge was shortened in length and relocated to this site, where it still serves pedestrians today. Then there is a cable-stayed suspension bridge, located to the east of the covered bridge spanning the Flutgraben. The bridge was probably built after German Reunification and still retains its structural integrity today as it provides access for pedestrians and cyclists to the Brühl Garden located north of the park. Contrary to the majority of today’s cable-stayed bridges in the US, this one fits nicely into the landscape.
The name Geschwister Scholl can be found throughout all of Germany, as every town has a street named in memory of the siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl, who were part of the White Rose movement against the regime of Adolf Hitler but were executed by order of the People’s Court on 18 February, 1943. The railroad overpass carries this street but is structurally unique because it features one large center arch span and two smaller ones located along the slopes. The bridge is very difficult to find as many objects are in the way, creating an impression that it is just an ordinary bridge. However, another bridge, a deck Queenpost truss bridge is located next to the arch bridge- another rarity in the world of bridge architecture. The bridges cross a rail line connecting Erfurt Main Station with cities in the north, including Nordhausen, Sangerhausen and Magdeburg.
Bridge 9: The Leipziger Strasse Underpass
Location: The Erfurt-Magdeburg, Erfurt-Nordhausen and Erfurt-Kassel Rail Lines over Leipziger Strasse between the city limits and Ringelberg.
Type: Two bridges feature concrete beam designs with Art Greco columns while the center bridge is a closed spandrel arch bridge
Although not featured in the books by Baumbach and Vockrodt, the three bridges are a diamond in the rough in terms of its features and appearance. The bridges were built between 1919 and 1926, and given their appearance, the bridges aged much more rapidly than expected, thus prompting the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) to replace both bridges in 2016-17. This was deemed a necessity as the railways plan to increase passenger train service to the north of Thuringia and beyond.
Location: Appelstedt Creek at the confluence of the Gera River near Ingersleben
Type: Two-span stone arch bridge
Built: 1752, rebuilt in 1896 and 1995
This bridge is located in the southwestern most part of the greater Erfurt area near the suburb of Erfurt.Bischleben. Its aesthetics is very uncharacteristic of any arch bridge in Erfurt. Built in 1752 by Gustav Adolf von Goetter, the bridge was originally featured one stone arch span. However, to better improve the flow of the creek, an additional arch was added in 1896, albeit it is only two-thirds of the original arch span. The arch bridge is also curved, making it one of two bridges in Erfurt, whose structure does not cross a ravine in a straight line. Although the structure was made obsolete by a new beam structure in 1965, the German Democratic Republic declared the bridge a historic monument, although it was not renovated until 1995. The latest changes feature pavement replacing cobblestones in 2010. Other than that, the bridge and the tower that is next to it still maintains its structural integrity. It can be seen from the railway west of Erfurt.
Location: Gera River on an abandoned rail line south of Strasse des Friedens
Type: Riveted Pratt pony truss bridge
Built: ca. 1920, abandoned since 1990
This bridge is one of only a couple of its kind that still exists in Erfurt. It used to serve a passenger rail line that passed through Rieth before making its way northwest. Yet with the German Reunification in 1990 combined with the plan to use a line east of the bridge for passenger service (the Erfurt-Kassel Line), the line and the bridge was both abandoned. They still exist today and the bridge can be seen from the main highway. Interesting enough, another bridge similar to this one, serves the Erfurt-Kassel Line spanning the Gera near Kuehnhausen, one of the northernmost suburbs of the greater Erfurt area.
Bridge 12: Aue Cable-stayed Bridge
Location: Gera River at Auen Strasse and Nordpark
Type: Cable-stayed suspension bridge
This bridge is the newest of the structures in Erfurt, yet it is the second bridge of its kind in Erfirt. The bridge was built to replace a deck girder bridge that had been built by a firm in Weiden (Bavaria) in the 1990s but was used for pedestrians. The western entrance featured wooden stairways going down to the structure. The new bridge eliminated that while at the same time, provides another possibility for cyclists and pedestrians going to Nordpark and the hospital complex from the eastern part of the city.
The next segment will feature the bridges in the innermost part of the city and with that, also the Karlsbrücke, located between the city center and the Riethstrasse-Brücke in the northern part of the city.
Every year at about this time in the state capital of Thuringia, Erfurt, a festival takes place on a sunny weekend, commemorating one of the city’s prized landmarks, the Kraemerbrücke. Located over the Gera River and the Breitstrom Creek, the current bridge was built in 1325, featuring stone arches that support the houses that are perching them. Since 1975, the City of Erfurt has hosted the annual Kraemerbruecke Festival which takes place on and around the bridge. This year’s festival was a special one. Over 150,000 visitors attended the festival this past weekend (15-17 June, 2012), which is one of the largest numbers in attendance in the festival’s history. Among those who attended were many who took the coaches from as far south as Bavaria and Baden Wuerttemberg to visit the event. The event was filled with music for many music festivals and concerts took place in at least four different places, be it a jazz music festival at Fischmarkt market square, located west of the bridge, a dance festival at the Wenige Markt square located at the east entrance of the bridge, Renaissance music behind the bridge on the north side (together with the booths that deal with this popular theme), or concerts provided by many German music groups at Domplatz Square, in front of the cathedral. The 37th annual bridge festival was touted as one of the successful, not only because of the weather, but because of all the things people could do there, whether it was fording across the Gera and Breitstrom, shopping for some souvenirs or even trying out some of the cuisines made locally.
I was there with my family on Sunday and would like to share with you some highlights of the event. Please keep in mind that the history and characteristics of the Kraemerbruecke is a separate article that will be featured in Part III of the series on Erfurt’s bridges.
Fast Fact:This is the second weekend in a row that a bridge in Thuringia is being commemorated with a celebration. Last weekend, over 1000 people attended the day-long grand-opening festival of the Lichtenhain Bridge in Jena, located 60 kilometers east of Erfurt. The bridge is the newest of the seven bridges that cross the Saale River, slicing the city of 120,000 into two parts. The bridge was completed earlier this year but the grand opening was delayed due to vandalism.
When visiting a city, one has to keep the following rule in mind: always visit the historic bridges first, for they are normally the last historic structures to be visited and the first ones to fall to modernization. There are a lot of characteristics that make the city of Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia located 130 km southwest of Leipzig unique in itself. There are 38 churches, including the Erfurt Cathedral at Domplatz. There are three market squares, all within five minutes’ walk of each other. And lastly, there are 258 bridges within the city limits- over 30 of which are within the city center itself!
If you ask a local what bridge he would associate Erfurt with, then the answer will almost definitely be the Kraemerbruecke, a house bridge that has existed since the 1100s, and resembles the London Bridge before the arches were moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1967. Yet there are over 20 historic bridges in Erfurt that exist, built before 1920 with the majority of them existing before 1800.
Dietrich Baumbach and Hans-Joerg Vockrodt have worked with the subject of historic bridges in Erfurt for over 20 years, which includes releasing not only one, but two books on the subject. The first book, released in 2000, focuses on the 12 arch bridges that exist in Erfurt and provides technical details to each of the bridges profiled. The second book, released late last year, focuses on the historical aspect of Erfurt’s bridges, which includes the numerous bridges that used to cross the streams flowing through the city, making it look like the northern version of Venice, but no longer exist.
In order to focus on the importance of Erfurt’s historic bridges, this segment will be divided up into five parts. The first three will feature the existing bridges in Erfurt, beginning with the bridges outside the city center; all but two of which are located south of the main station. The next part will feature the bridges in Erfurt’s innermost part of the city. This does not include the Kraemerbruecke as that bridge will be a standalone feature in part three. I had an opportunity to interview the two authors over a cappuccino at one of over 100 cafés serving the city, and the dialogue will be featured in part four. The fifth and final part of the series will feature the two books written by Baumbach and Vockrodt but compared by the author, looking at the bridges both past and present.
Stay tuned. The next column deals with the bridges in the outer skirts of Erfurt.
The last of the three part Wisconsin bridge tour takes us to Chippewa County. With 62,415 residents according to the latest US Census survey, the county is part of the greater Eau Claire economic metropolitan area. While Chippewa Falls, with a population of over 13,000 inhabitants, is the county seat of Chippewa County, it is located approximately 15 km north of Eau Claire. Even sections of Eau Claire are located in Chippewa County. The county’s origin comes from the Chippewa River, christened by the Obijwe tribes. There is a lot to see and do in Chippewa County, as it annually hosts the Northern Wisconsin State Fair and two music festivals near Chippewa Falls. Seymour Cray, an inventor of the supercomputer, was born in the county seat, and a research center was created after him. And the Leinekugel Brewery Company got its beginnings in the county, even though the name itself is purely German.
Yet the county has its share of historic bridges to choose from, one will find some rarities, mostly inside the city limits of Chippewa Falls but also along the Chippewa River and Lake Wissota. This includes the Cobban Bridge, which is the last remaining Pennsylvania through truss bridge in the state. Yet one of the bridges, a railroad bridge, was a site of tragedy caused by an arsonist not respecting the rights of private property. This segment will be divided up into roadway and railway bridges, with the latter being commented by John Marvig, who visited the region this past May. He, J.R. Manning, Bob Gile and Steve Conro provided the photos of the bridges for you to enjoy.
1. Cobban Bridge
Location: Chippewa River just off Hwy. 178 at Cobban
Type: Two-span Pennsylvania Petit through truss bridge with 3-rhombus Howe lattice bracing and 45° heels
Built: 1908 by the Modern Steel Structures Company of Waukesha.
Length of largest span: 241.2 ft.
Total length: 486.5 ft.
Deck width: 16 ft.
This bridge was originally constructed over the Yellow River between Eagle Point and Arthur Townships. With the construction of the hydroelectric power plant six kilometers from the bridge in 1916, the two townships agreed to relocate the bridge 25 kilometers upstream to its present spot over the Chippewa River. It is the last of the bridge of its type in Wisconsin and one of the rarest you will ever see with two spans of the same truss design. It has become a point of attraction thanks to the state tourism board and given its pristine shape, it will remain in use for many years to come.
2. Bridge of Pines (Rumbly Bridge)
Location: Ravine on Erma Tinger Drive at Irvin Park in Chippewa Falls
Type: Three-span pony truss bridge
Built: 1907 by Wisconsin Bridge & Iron; Altered 1913 by Worden-Allen Co., both of Milwaukee
Dimensions: 146 feet long
The bridge was constructed in two phases. When the city of Chippewa Falls established the park in 1906, they contracted Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Company to build an arched Warren pony truss over Duncan Creek at the park’s main entrance. However, when the north addition was completed in 1913, that span was relocated and incorporated into a three-span system that would cross a deep ravine. The bridge today features the Warren truss as the center span with two Howe lattice approach spans- one on each end of the bridge. The structure is open to pedestrians and cyclists only.
3. Central Street Bridge
Location: Duncan Creek on Center Street in Chippewa Falls
Type: Riveted Pratt through truss bridge with 3-rhombus Howe lattice portal and strut bracings
Length of largest span: 130.3 ft.
Total length: 134.8 ft.
Deck width: 29.9 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 13.7 ft.
This bridge is perhaps one of the smallest structures that can be found in Chippewa Falls, let alone in the county. One cannot see the bridge until right before crossing it. The bridge was one of many that were built during the Roosevelt Administration when the Works Progress Administration was established to put many unemployed people back to work. When it started in 1933, one in three Americans were unemployed, a figure that was reduced to 20% by the 1936 elections. The bridge is eligible to by listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Judging by its recent rehabilitation, that bridge will remain in use on the street for years to come.
Bridge 4: Spring Street Bridge
Location: Duncan Creek on Spring Street in Chippewa Falls
Type: Pony Rainbow Arch Bridge
Built: 1916 by the Iowa Bridge Company of Des Moines with James B. Marsh as engineer
Length of largest span: 93.2 ft.
Total length: 110.9 ft.
Deck width: 20.0 ft.
The Spring Street Bridge is an example of a type of bridge one can still see on America’s rural roads today known as the Marsh Arch Bridge. Developed by James B. Marsh in 1911, these bridge types are classified by its pony or through arch design with reinforced concrete upper arch supported by vertical beams. It is unknown how many Rainbow arch bridges were built between 1911 and 1930, but over 100 of them still exist today, many to be found in Iowa and Kansas. The future of this bridge is questionable as plans are in the making to make this bridge serve one way traffic only for reasons that its 20 feet width is no longer suitable to today’s traffic needs.
There were many rail lines that passed through Chippewa County, let alone the county seat of Chippewa Falls including two by Chicago and Northwestern Railroad (now owned by Union Pacific), one by the Soo Line Railroad (now owned by Canadian Pacific) and one by the now defunct Milwaukee Road. John Marvig is providing you with a couple key examples of railroad bridges you should visit while in the vicinity of Chippewa Falls
Bridge 1: Lake Wissota Railroad Bridge
Built By: Soo Line
Currently Owned By: Canadian National Railway
Total Length: 185 Feet
Length of Largest Span: 80 Feet
Width: 1 Track
Height: 5 Feet (Estimated)
Main Type: Through Plate Girder
Date Built: 1910
Traffic Count: 4 Trains/day (estimated)
This bridge is located on the east side of Chippewa Falls. It is along county road X (old WI-29).
This bridge is a fairly common Midwestern design. But what makes it interesting is that it only goes over water.
But if you are going to access this bridge, be very careful. The road next to it is extremely dangerous. Traffic moves very fast, and there is a lot of it.
View of the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge on the south bank of the Chippewa River in Chippewa Falls. Ibid.
Bridge 2: Union Pacific Chippewa River Crossing at Chippewa Falls
Built By: Chicago Northwestern Railway Company
Currently Owned By: Union Pacific Railroad
Total Length: 907 Feet
Length of Largest Span: 160 Feet
Width: 1 Track
Height: 15 Feet (Estimated)
Main Type: Quadrangular Through Truss (2-160’ and 2-100’ spans)
Approach Type: 3-100’ Deck Plate Girder and I-Beam Spans with Trestle approaches)
Date Built: ca. 1894, partially rebuilt 1993
Traffic Count: 5 Trains/day (Estimated)
The northern most of all the bridges over the Chippewa River in Chippewa falls is this bridge. There were once 4 bridges, now there is only two. This one and the downstream bridge on the Soo Line.
This bridge was first built in about 1894 with trestle, 2-100’ truss spans, and 4-160’ truss spans. But after the tragic events of July 21st 1993, the bridge looked forever different.
This bridge has lived a very tragic life. First were the events of July 21st 1993. A middle aged man walked to the second span from the west bank, and dropped a match on the wooden pier. The pier had a very hot blaze, and the metal on the second span from the west bank expanded, causing the span to collapse.
After this event, a large scale investigation was carried out. They found the man was upset by railroad traffic going by his house. The Chicago Northwestern brought in 3 large deck plate girder spans from the nearby abandoned Lake Wissota Bridge. These replaced the first 2 spans from the west bank. Also added in was an additional I-Beam span at the west abutment, and another I-beam span between the current westernmost truss span and the easternmost deck plate girder span. Also, many people have been killed on this bridge. This bridge is a landmark for Chippewa Falls. I just wish I could have seen the full truss bridge.
View of the through truss spans in the background and the replacement spans from the former Lake Wissota bridge in the foreground. Ibid.
We hoped you enjoyed a tour of the three county region in western Wisconsin. While the state has lost a lot of its historic bridges over the course of 20 years, this area is one of only a few that has been bucking the trend and finding many creative ways of reusing the bridge for recreational purposes, should the structure no longer be able to accomodate today’s traffic. Each structure profiled in the three-article series has a unique value in terms of design and history, which has garnered attention by those wishing to keep the structures in tact for future generations. To close, I would like to ask you a favor when you visit one of these bridges next time, whether it is closer to home or far away: look at the structure closely and ask yourself: how did the structure get built and why, why is it here today, what stories can you find that relate to the bridge, and what can you do to save it for future generations. Chances are that nine times out of ten, you will receive at least one answer to each of the questions posed.