Mystery Bridge Nr. 157: The Oldest (and Unusual) Bridge in Husum, Germany

In Schleswig-Holstein, the oldest known bridge in the state can be found in the town of Schmalfeld in the district of Segeberg, located in the eastern part of the state. It was built in 1785 and was in service for 198 years before it was bypassed and converted into a bike trail crossing. It is one of only a handful of arch bridges that are known to exist in the northernmost state in Germany.

Source: Holger.Ellgaard, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Many arch bridges have gone unnoticed during the surveys of historic bridges in the last half decade, some of which deserve some sort of recognition.

The Schiffsbrücke in Husum is one of them. The bridge spans the Mühlenau at Zingeldamm near the Schiffsfahrtsmuseum (Museum of Shipping) and is the last crossing before the river empties into the harbor- right after the crossing. There’s next to no information on the bridge except for a couple dates to pass along to it. The first is in the picture above, which has a date of 1858 with the letter F on it.

Husum was part of the kingdom of Frisia, a region which stretched from southern Denmark, all the way to northeastern Netherlands, all along the North Sea coast and includes the islands in the Halligen region. The first known existence came in during the Roman Empire and it was once a regional powerhouse until the 16th Century, when it was split up. The German portion of Frisia, including Husum, became Uthlande, which later became part of Denmark until after the War of 1864, which resulted in German annexation. It is possible that given the Danish crown on the insignia, that Denmark had recognized Husum as Frisian, thus allowing for the language and culture to continue thriving. Yet we need more information to confirm these facts and to answer the question of why we have this insignia.

While the insignia states it was built in 1858, the informational board located on Zingeldamm stated otherwise, as it claimed that the bridge was built in 1871. Where the information came from is unknown but as original insignias on bridges are known to be the most reliable source of information to determine its construction date, there are two possibilities behind these two conflicting dates:

  1. The information is proven false because of a lack of records and thus historians may have assumed the date without taking a closer look at the bridge.
  2. The bridge may have been rebuilt after it was destroyed but the original brick railings, arch and insignia were retained and restored to provide a historic taste and conformity to Husum’s thriving city center and adjacent harbor.

Much of Husum survived unscathed during World War II as it used to serve as a naval port for the Nazis until its relocation to Flensburg in the district of Mürwik in 1943. Its only scar was a concentration camp near the town of Schwesing, where prisoners were used to build a wall to keep the waters of the North Sea out. The camp only existed for a few months in 1944, yet atrocities committed there could not be ignored and even an investigation into the camp took place in the 1960s. The city center, with its historic brick buildings dating back to the 17th century, has mainly remained in tact with only a couple minor alterations over the past 75 years, which means Husum has retained its historic architecture making it an attractive place to visit. The Schiffsbrücke represents that historic character that belongs to Husum’s past.

Unique feature of Schiffsbrücke is its wall. Husum lies on the North Sea coast and has its Flut and Ebbe (high and low tide). To keep the waters of the North Sea out of the Mühlenau, the wall is hoisted up to the keystone of the arch span. Because the Mühlenau is a “sweet water” river, this is done to protect the flora and fauna that exists in the river and are reliant on fresh water. Other than that feature, the bridge and its unique brick railings and insignia is one of the most unique and ornamental arch bridges in the state. Yet its mystery behind the construction date and the engineer behind the bridge and wall system makes it a bridge that one should research more on to find out its history.

And with that, it is your turn. What do you known about the Schiffsbrücke regarding its history, and which date would you lean towards- 1858 or 1871?

Feel free to place your comments on the Chronicles, either directly or via social media.

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Author’s Note:

This bridge article is in connection with a book project on the Bridges of Schleswig-Holstein that has restarted since the author’s return. Click here to look at the details and feel free to contribute some information on the project. Happy bridgehunting, folks. 🙂 ❤

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