Historic Structures and Glasses: Restore vs. Replacement in Simpler Terms

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The discussion about the preservation and reuse of historic places has existed since the 1950s, thanks to the preservation laws that have been in place. The German Preservation Laws were passed in 1958, whereas the Historic Preservation Laws that established the National Park Service and National Register of Historic Places in the USA were enacted in 1966. Both serve the lone purpose of identifying and designating places unique to the cultural identity and history of their respective countries. Furthermore, these places are protected from any sort of modernization that would otherwise alter or destroy the structure in its original form. Protected places often receive tax credits, grants and other amenities that are normally and often not granted if it is not protected or even nominated for listing as a historic site.  This applies to not only buildings and bridges but also to roadways and highways, windmills, towers of any sorts, forts and castles, citadels and educational institutions and even memorials commemorating important events.

Dedicating and designating sites often receive mixed reactions, from overwhelming joy because they can better enjoy the sites and educate the younger generations, to disgruntlement because they want to relieve themselves of a potential liability.

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Since working with a preservation group in western Saxony on saving the Bockau Arch Bridge, a seven-span stone arch bridge that spans the Zwickau Mulde between Bockau and Zschorlau, six kilometers southwest of Aue, the theme involving this structure has been ownership. The bridge has been closed to all traffic since August 2017 while a replacement is being built on a new alignment. Once the new bridge opens, the 150-year old structure will come down unless someone is willing to step in and take over ownership and the responsibilities involved. . Taking the structure means paying for its maintenance and assuming all responsibility for anything that could potentially happen. And this is the key here: Ownership.

Who wants to own a piece of history? To examine this, let’s look at a basic example of a commodity where two thirds of the world’s population wear on a regular basis- the author included as well: glasses.

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The author’s sunglasses: the older model from 2005 on top; the newest pair from 2018 at the bottom.

Ever since Marco Polo’s invention, glasses have been improved, innovated and modernized to not only make the person look great in appearance. It also helps them to better see the environment surrounding them, regardless of whether they are near-sighted or far sighted, have astigmatism or require bi-focals to read, or if they want protect their eyes from the sun in the form of shades. Glasses can be plastic or metal (or even both). And like the historic structures, the materials can be recycled if no one wants them. Yet by the same token, many of us love to keep them for the purpose of memories or give them away to those who need them. For over 30 years, I have worn nine pairs of glasses and two pairs of sunglasses; this does not count the eight years that I primarily wore contact lenses, which was during my time in high school and college. Like our historic structures, glasses have a life span. They are worn until the frames develop rust and corrosion, the vision changes or they are broken.

In some cases, many look for a new frames because they want to “look cool” in front of their peers. The “look cool” mentality has overtaken society to a point where it can be applicable to about everything: cars, clothing, houses and especially historic places and structures of interest. Basically, people just ignore the significance of these structures and things that had been built in the past, which hold memories, contribute to the development of a country, region or even community, or are simply fashionable. Still in spite of all this, one has to do something about the glasses, just as much one has to do something about the historic building.

So let’s take these two pairs of sunglasses, for example. Like in the picture above, the top one I was prescribed by an optometrist in 2005; the bottom one most recently in June 2018. The top one is a combination of plastic and steel- the temples, ends and hinges are made of steel; the eye wires are plastic. The lenses are made with Carl Zeiss branded glass with a sealcoat covering to protect it from scratches.  The bottom ones are plastic- frames, temples and nosepiece; the lenses are plastic but with a sealcoat protectant and dimmers to protect the eyes from the sun. The brand name is generic- no name.  The difference is that the changes in the eyes required new sunglasses for the purpose of driving or doing work outside.  As I wear the new sunglasses, which are not as high quality but is “cool,” according to standards, the question is what to do with the old sunglasses?

There are enough options to go around, even if the sunglasses are not considered significant. One can keep the old pair for memory purposes. Good if you have enough space for them. One can give them away to someone who needs them. If they are non-prescription lenses, that is much easier than those with a prescription. With the prescription lenses, one will need to remove them from the frame before giving them away. Then there is the option of handing them into the glasses provider, who takes the pair apart and allows for the materials to be recycled.  More likely one will return the old pair to the provider to be recycled and reused than it would be to give them away because of the factors of age, quality of the materials and glass parts and especially the questions with the lenses themselves. One can keep the pair, but it would be the same as leaving them out of sight and out of mind.

And this mentality can be implemented to any historic structure. People strive for cooler, more modern buildings, infrastructure or the like, but do not pay attention to the significance of the structure they are replacing in terms of learning about the past and figuring its reuse in the future. While some of  these “oldtimers “ are eventually vacated and abandoned, most of them are eventually torn down with the materials being reused for other purposes; parts of sentimental values, such as finials, statues and plaques, are donated to museums and other associations to be put on display.

The Bridge at Pointer’s Ridge. Built in 1910 by the Western Bridge Company of Omaha, NE. The Big Sioux River crossing was one of five bridges removed after years of abandonment in 2012. Photo taken in 1999 when it was still open.

One of examples that comes to mind when looking at this mentality are the bridges of Minnehaha County in South Dakota. The most populous county in the state whose county seat is Sioux Falls (also the largest city in the state), the county used to have dozens of historic truss bridges that served rail and automobile traffic. As of present, 30 known truss bridges exists in the county, down from 43 in 1990, and half as many as in 1980.  At least six of them are abandoned awaiting reuse. This includes a rails-to-road bridge that was replaced in 1997 but has been sitting alongside a gravel road just outside Dell Rapids ever since.  A big highlight came with the fall of five truss bridges between Dell Rapids and Crooks in 2012, which included three through truss spans- two of which had crossed the Big Sioux. All three were eligible for the National Register. The reasons behind the removal were simple: Abandoned for too long and liability was too much to handle

This leads me to my last point on the glasses principle: what if the structures are protected by law, listed as a historic monument?  Let’s look at the glasses principle again to answer that question. Imagine you have a couple sets of glasses you don’t want to part ways with, even as you clean your room or  flat. What do you do with them? In the case of my old sunglasses, the answer is simple- I keep them for one can reuse them for other purposes. Even if I allow my own daughter to use them for decorating dolls or giant teddy bears, or even for artwork, the old pair is mine, if and only if I want to keep them and allow for use by someone else under my care.  The only way I would not keep the old sunglasses is if I really want to get rid of them and no one wants them.

Big Sioux River Crossing at 255th Street: One of five bridges removed in 2012 after decades of abandonment. Photo taken in 1999.

For historic places, this is where we have somewhat of a grey area. If you treat the historic place as if it is protected and provide great care for it, then there is a guarantee that it will remain in its original, pristine condition. The problem is if you want to get rid of it and your place is protected by law. Here you must find the right person who will take as good care of it as you do with your glasses. And that is not easy because the owner must have the financial security and the willpower just to do that. Then the person taking it over does not automatically do what he/she pleases. If protected under preservation laws you must treat it as if it is yours but it is actually not, just like renting a house.  Half the places that have been torn down despite its designation as a historical site was because of the lack of ownership and their willingness to do something to their liking. Even if there are options for restoration available, if no one wants it, it has to go, even if it means taking it off the historic registry list to do that.  Sometimes properties are reclaimed at the very last second, just like the old glasses, because of the need to save it. While one can easily do that with glasses, it is difficult to do that with historic places, for replacement contracts often include removal clauses for the old structure, something that is very difficult to rescind without taking the matter to court.

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In reference to the project on the Bockau Arch Bridge in Germany, we are actually at that point. Despite its protection as a historic structure, its designation was taken off recently, thus allowing for the contract for the new bridge at the expense of the old structure to proceed. Yet, like with the pair of old glasses, last ditch attempts are being made to stop the process for there are possible suitors willing to take over the old structure and repurpose it for bike and pedestrian use. While neither of the communities have expressed interest, despite convincing arguments that the bridge can be maintained at a price that is 100 times less than the calculated amount, the group working to save the bridge is forming an association which will feature a network of patrons in the region, willing to chip in to own the bridge privately. Despite this, the debate on ownership and the bridge’s future lies in the hands of the state parliament because the bridge carries a federal highway, which is maintained on the state and national levels. Will it become like the old pair of glasses that is saved the last second will be decided upon later this fall.

To summarize briefly on the glasses principle, glasses and buildings each have a short lifespan because of their functionality and appearance. We tend to favor the latter more than the former and therefore, replace them with newer, more modern and stylish things to keep up with the pace. However, the older structures, just like the discarded pair of glasses, are downgraded on the scale, despite its protection under laws and ownership. When listed as a historical site, the proprietor works for and together with the government to ensure its upkeep, just like lending old glasses to someone for use, as long as the person knows he/she is “borrowing” it. When it is not listed , they are either abandoned or torn down, just like storing the glasses in the drawers or even having them recycled. However the decision is final if and only if no one wants it, and this could be a last-second thing.

The Bridge at Iverson Crossing south of Sioux Falls. Built in 1897, added to the National Register in 1996. Now privately owned. Photo taken in 1998.

We cannot plan ahead for things that need to be built, expanded or even replaced, for there may be someone with a strong backbone and staunch support who will step in the last minute to stake their claim. This applies to replacing older, historic structures with modern ones that have less taste and value. In the face of environmental issues we’re seeing globally on a daily basis, we have to use and reuse buildings and other structures to prevent the waste of materials that are becoming rarer to use, the destruction of natural habitats that may never recover but most importantly, remind the younger generations of our history and how we got this far. While some of us have little memories of our old glasses in schools with the exception of school class and party photos, almost all of us have memories of our experiences at, in, or on a historic structure that deserves to be recognized and kept for others to see. It’s just a matter of handling them, like the glasses we are wearing.

 

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Bridges Should Be Beautiful by Ian Firth

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Abstract from ted.com: Bridges need to be functional, safe and durable, but they should also be elegant and beautiful, says structural engineer Ian Firth. In this mesmerizing tour of bridges old and new, Firth explores the potential for innovation and variety in this essential structure — and how spectacular ones reveal our connectivity, unleash our creativity and hint at our identity.

Author’s Note: This video came about via tip from one of the pontists in one of the social network sites devoted to historic bridges and serves as a reminder to another article published a week earlier on by Scottish engineers suggesting American bridge builders look for sources of inspiration in places outside their borders. In the past two decades, many new structures have been built to supplant other, fancier historic bridges, whose design presents an appealing taste to the public. The mentality of quantity versus quality at the lowest possible cost but at the same time with little or no maintenance for a century has resulted in blocks of concrete with no character ruling the rivers and streams with little or no aesthetic value. This myth is just a fantasy and is miles away from reality that we see on highways and in cities today. No wonder that protests against such projects to replace historic bridges with boring, bland modern structures presented by agencies with dilluted and questionable facts are increasing sharply, as we are seeing with the debate over the future of Frank Wood Memorial Bridge in Maine, for example.  The advice to take from the article (accessed here) and by looking at the video below is this: If a bridge needs to be replaced, find a way to reuse the structure for other purposes and if a new bridge is needed, please with an aesthetic appeal that the community will be happy with. Sometimes looking to Europe, Asia or even Africa will help engineers be creative and place quality over quantity. Better is looking at the bridge designs that have been discarded and experimenting with them. After all, money does not matter to bridge building. Communities and the lives of the People living there do, though.

Enjoy the Ted Talk Video  below. 🙂

Video:

 

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Hopfenbrücke in Vogtland

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All photos taken in June 2018 after the rehabilitation and reopening of the bridge.

While travelling along the main artery connecting Munich with Berlin, the Motorway 9, one ought to consider turning off at Schleiz and following the Highway B 282 and E 49 in the direction of Plauen for a good 15 Kilometers to the east, heading into the small but rather active village of Mühltroff. With a population of 1800 inhabitants, Mühltroff straddles the river Wisenta and is one of the oldest villages in Saxony; it was first mentioned in 1274 and was officially declared a town by the district of Plauen in 1327. It was once a fishing community and ist shield reflects the hertitage of the community. With its historic houses lining up along the Wisenta, Mühltroff resembles Little Venice alá Vogtland, even though fishing no longer exists today, and only three bridges are known to exist.

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One of them is the focus of the author’s stop on the journey, the Hopfenbrücke.  The structure is one of the oldest in Saxony, having been built in 1396, and was the main crossing connecting the eastern and western halves of the village until after World War II. The structure features a one-span stone-brick arch bridge, which is anchored by houses on both sides of the Wisenta. Judging by the setting of the bridge, on each corner of its abutment was a historic house, and it appeared that there was an entrance on both sides at one time, resembling the housed bridges that were built during that time- among them that exist today still are the Krämerbrücke in Erfurt and the Rathausbrücke in Bamberg. Sadly, despite its historic appeal, the houses on the western side will become history for one became a garden a couple decades ago and the other will be removed before the end of 2018, according to recent newspaper articles.

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The name Hopfenbrücke has nothing to do with the beer route nor a brewery for Mühltroff had neighter of them according to record. In fact, the community has a palace dating back to 1349, a windmill dating back to the 14th century and a textile industry that started in the 15th Century and is one of the key aspects of Mühltroff to this day.  The Hopfensbrücke was named after the Hopf Family, whose house was next to the bridge and who also owned a shop at the structure until the beginning of the 1900s. The road it carried was a main route connecting Schleiz and Plauen, where horse and buggy first crossed, followed by cars. By the end of the second World War, there was a need to realign the road, especially to accomodate the military vehicles that had to be stationed near the border that had once divided Germany until 1990 when it became Saxony and Thuringia on the northeastern edge and Bavaria to the southwest. Therefore, another arch bridge was built to the north of the bridge, but unlike its neighbor, it was a Luten arch span and was made of concrete. That structure still carries traffic, and one can see the stone arch bridge 100 meters away while crossing the Wisenta.

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The bridge was reopened recently after having been closed for rehabilitation. The cost for the work was 460,000 Euros and it consisted of strengthening the arches, removing the concrete facade covering the arch span and making repairs to the structure. It had been damaged by flooding in 2013 and was declared unsafe to cross. However, with the grand opening last Friday (the 7th of June), the community welcomed the bridge back with open arms. And it was good that way; despite its population and size, Mühltroff happens to be one of the livelier of the communities, with people walking the streets even in the evenings, music being played in the apartments, and apartments having colorful facades to make it look attractive to the tourists. Even the market square, which starts at the historic bridge and goes down the main street to the castle is narrow and enclosed, but lively. Next to the bridge across from the City Hall is the East German Museum, where people can visit, see the artefacts that were typical during that period before 1990 and learn about its history.

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But inspite that, the people are happy to have their historic bridge back. After 600 years, the structure still symbolizes the community and its heritage- a former fishing community that is still today the Little Venice of the Vogtland. One can see the palace and historic windmill, but the visit is not complete without seeing the bridge, the structure that will hopefully continue its service for another 600 years. So take some time in Mühltroff and don’t forget the bridge. 😉

 

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Mühltroff is only three kilometers east of the Saxony/Thuringia border. It had belonged to the District of Gera and on the Thuringian side from 1949 until March 1992, two years after Germany reunited. It became part of Saxony in April 1992 and merged with neighboring Pausa to become a joint community in 2013. Today, the community belongs to the Vogtland District, whose county seat is (none other than) Plauen, which is 22 kilometers to the east.

Map of Mühltroff and Hopfenbrücke:

 

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Former Iowa Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored and Reerected in Delaware

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YORKLYN, DELAWARE/ HOLT, MICHIGAN/ GRINELL, IOWA-

Nearly nine years after the McIntyre Bridge (aka Skunk River Bridge, Hump Back Bridge, McDowell Bridge) was swept off it’s piers on August 13, 2009 and into the N. Skunk River the old iron bridge has been restored, rehabilitated and repaired. It was erected June 1st, 2018 over the Red Clay Creek in Yorklyn, Delaware, part of the Delaware State Parks trail systems at Auburn Heights Preserve.

The bowstring bridge, fabricated in 1878 and erected in 1883 in Poweshiek County, Iowa has been in the craftsmans hands for the past few years in Michigan. Bach Ornamental and Structural Steel, in Holt & St. Johns, Michigan has had the massive task of bringing the bridge back to life. Nels Raynor participated in pulling the bridge from the river in the fall of 2009 and a larger gang of craftsmen including Derek Pung, Lee Pung, Brock Raynor and Andy Hufnagel, completed the bridge project. They spent countless hours welding old iron, riveting broken pieces back together and pounding out the packed rust. The cruciform posts were completely fabricated to replace the old and the bridge has been painted, wrenched back together and was lifted into place by John Hayden of First State Cranes who helped with adding sway bracing to the trusses and placing the stringers for installation.

The bridge was engineered by Jim Schiffer, P.E. of Traverse City, Michigan. The engineering and the repairs allow this bridge to go back to vehicular traffic, handling the Marshall Steam Museums fleet of classic cars and Stanley Steamers with a live loading limit of 8 tons. The bridge is 119.5 feet long and weighs with planks and iron 76,000 pounds.

The bridge has been renamed the Paper Mill Bridge, the story of it’s years in Iowa and the people that rallied to support it’s preservation is being told and while the bridge isn’t in Iowa it has been preserved.

“It was never our intention to save a bridge for somewhere else”, stated Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges. “We worked very hard from 2009 until spring of 2012 and thought we had an arrangement with Poweshiek County to preserve the bridge in Iowa. The Board of Supervisors reneged on the application for Transportation Alternative Program to preserve the bridge at Mill Grove Access and it was at that point that we began to work on other people’s history.” When the plan to restore the bridge in Iowa failed, the next option was to find a new home for the structure, even outside Iowa. It was eventually sold to DNREC in 2015 and it was decided that it would span Red Clay Creek serving a train in Newcstle County.  She added that Workin’ Bridges with BACH and Schiffer Group, had won an award for preservation for the Springfield Bowstring Bridge restoration in Conway, Arkansas. In addition, the crew won the 2017 Ammann Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge with this same bridge with Nels Raynor winning the Lifetime Achievement Award.  Currently they are working on the 80-foot Hope Memorial Bowstring in Rosebud, Texas and has submitted a proposal for the Old Richardsville Bridge – a three span hybrid bowstring in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which was closed by Kentucky Transportation Cabinet earlier in 2018. Workin’ Bridges has been instrumental in preserving bridges all over the country. This is in addition to turning two bridges into land / bridge conserved parks in Pennsylvania and Oregon, as well as the bridges for a recreational area in northern Delaware, where the Paper Mill Bowstring is located.

More on the successes of BACH Steel, Workin Bridges and Co., as wel as Nels Raynor’s storied career will come in later articles. Stay tuned.

 

Workin’ Bridges is the The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA), a non-profit dedicated to historic truss bridges and greenbelt restoration. A documentary on Historic Truss Bridge Restoration is on YouTube. Donations are accepted for bridge repair and may be mailed to NSRGA, PO Box 332, Grinnell, IA 50112 • www.workinbridges.org • PayPal • Workin’ Bridges on Facebook.

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Chemnitz Viaduct Spared Demolition

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1901 Viaduct no longer part of the plan to modernize the Hook south of Chemnitz based on decision by Ministry in Berlin.

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CHEMNITZ, GERMANY- The Hook in Chemnitz, located in the central part of the German State of Saxony, is a 2.8 kilometer railroad bypass that encircles the southern part of the City Center. It includes the railway Stations of Chemnitz-Mitte, Chemnitz-Süd and Chemnitz Central (Hauptbahnhof). The entire Stretch is 65 years old, has been considered outdated and not suitable for modern (long-distance) trains, especially as the City is working together with the German Railways (The Bahn) to have long-distance trains passing through Chemnitz for the first time in 15 years. Yet the good news is that this missing link is a big step closer to reality. The German Ministry of Railways in Berlin, on Friday, approved an 80 Million Euro Project to reconstruct the Hook, which will feature new railroad tracks between Mitte and Central, new train stations at Mitte and Süd, upgrading them to fulfill modern (and also) handicap standards, the removal of a functionally obsolete bridge at Mitte and the replacement of four bridges.

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One of the bridges that is not part of the plans is the Chemnitz Viaduct, a 117-year old K-Frame arch viaduct that the City and local Groups have fought for over six years to save and preserve. The story behind this bridge can be found in an earlier article written by the Chronicles here. According to a 227-page Report by the Railway Ministry in Berlin (Eisenbahnbundesamt) and confirmed by German Station MDR-Sachsen, a clause stated explicitely that plans for a five-span modern arch bridge is not in the interest of the German Preservation Laws and the German Government:

Der geplante Abriss des Chemnitztalviaduktes wird aus denkmalschutzrechtlichen Gründen abgelehnt. (EN: The planned demolition of the Chemnitz Viaduct has been rejected because of its Status as a Legally-Preserved Monument).

The decision has been met with relief for many and a victory for others, as the viaduct has been considered part of Chemnitz’s history, even though it is the second crossing at this spot. Its predecessor was a 12-span concrete arch bridge that was built in 1884 crossing the River Chemnitz and Annaberger Strasse, serving the Nuremberg-Hof-Zwickau-Dresden Magistrate. Due to flood risks, a steel arch viaduct built 20 meters higher and 50 meters north of the site was built in 1900-01 and the arch span was later removed. The Viaduct has been serving rail traffi ever since.  Plans for demolishing the viaduct was first presented in 2003 as the Bahn had presented a proposal to modernise the Hook. The plan was met with a high, sturdy wall of resistance, which featured online petitions, presentations, initiatives and even a structural study by bridge engineers with experience restoring historic bridges– All of them supported restoring the historic bridge and making it suitable for long-distance trains, in particular the InterCity trains from Cologne and Nuremberg. As with the measure involving the Frank Wood Bridge in Maine, they even brought this matter to court, where the Office for Preserved Artefacts (Denkmalschutzamt) decided to forward the matter to the Ministry of Railway in Berlin, with success on the part of the historic bridge and the City of Chemnitz.

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The Railroad Overpass at Chemnitz Süd, one of five bridges along the Hook that will become history in 2019

 

With this decision, the Bahn has decided to proceed with the plan of modernizing the Hook without the Viaduct. Construction is expected to begin in the Fall 2019 and should last four years. The bridges expected to be replaced will include a 1920s bridge at Chemnitz-Süd, a concrete overpass at Chemnitz-Mitte stemming from the East German times and two smaller bridges. As for the Chemnitz Viaduct, the bridge will not be renovated before 2022 which gives all parties time to come up with a plan to restore the bridge to accomodate rail traffic and calculate how much time is needed to complete the second phase of the project along the Hook.

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This will not affect the reintroduction of InterCity trains for delays in electrifying the line between Glauchau and Weimar via Jena combined with problems with modernizing the rail line south of Hof in Bavaria will most likely result in the use of diesel trains for the IC-trains before the electrification project is completed by 2030. Furthermore, the IC-line to Rostock via Leipzig and Berlin will most likely be in service before 2020, which will put Chemnitz back on the map and  in the Fernverkehrsnetz (Long-distance Train Network) for the first time since the last ICE-Train passed through in early 2002.

 

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Zellstoff Bridge Receives New Flooring

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Zellstoff Bridge after getting a new decking in 2018.

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ZWICKAU (SAXONY), GERMANY-  In a previous article on the Iron Bridge in Aue, the author mentioned that as many as nine bridges along the Zwickau Mulde have been or are being rehabilitated or replaced; many of them were damaged because of the Great Flood of 2013, which is being commemorated this month.

If we count this bridge north of Zwickau, the Zellstoff Bridge, which opened recently, then it makes ten bridges within 2-3 years.  After tolerating a wooden decking that was wide on the one hand but warped and worn out on the other, the local crews replaced the bridge flooring during the spring and reopened the bridge a month ago. The cost of the project was between 300 and 700,000 Euros, much of which was financed locally.  At the same time, new railings were added to ensure that the crossing does not become a liability.

During my visit most recently, one can see the difference between the time before and the time after the construction. The decking has the same characteristics of wood but it it much smoother than before. The only caveat is that the decking is about 2 meters narrower than before, which makes crossing the bridge by foot riskier. Nevertheless, the new decking is greeted with open arms as many people use the trail connecting the north of Zwickau with areas to the north and east. During my last visit, more and more people used the bridge than in 2016 and decking played a key role there. As one of the fellow pontists said in my recent correspondance:  A narrow deck is built to conform to engineering standards. For pedestrian bridges, the bridge must be able to hold the weight of the deck fully loaded, with people standing shoulder to shoulder. Nevertheless, if the decking is used as often as it is now, with as much maintenance as it needs, it will last a long time and perhaps it will buy the City of Zwickau more time to give the bridge a real make-over when it is needed.

This is the second rehabilitation of the bridge since it was saved from demolition in 2007. The bridge used to be a rail crossing over the Zwickau Mulde River and the eastern bank used to hold a paper factory, which had been in business until its removal in the 1990s.

For more on the bridge, check out the tour guide on Zwickau’s bridges by clicking here.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 5

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What’s in a name? A bridge is just a bridge as it crosses a ravine, body of water or even a roadway from point A to point B. This is where this week’s bridge pic comes in. A “natural” bridge spanning a deep ravine connecting a park with a castle……

in Saxony……

in Glauchau…..

The Hirschgrund Bridge has been in the news recently because construction has yet to begin on this 300+ year old stone arch structure. Why has there been a delay?  You’ll love the author and the Glauchau City Council for this….. 😉

The debate over the name of the bridge!

In March of this year, the contract was let to a company for rebuilding the bridge, the name Hirschgaben Bridge was used. However, in the documents on the city’s budget plans was the name Hirschgrund used. This caused a lot of confusion as to how the bridge should be named. On the on hand, Hirschgraben was used because the ravine surrounding the castle was very deep – on the same level as the riverbed of the Zwickau Mulde River- a difference of 30 meters. Geologically speaking is Hirschgraben correct. And according to oral history is Hirschgraben the name used when talking about the bridge and the ravine. Historically speaking, Hirschgrund is also correct as it focuses on the whole complex itself, which includes the castle, park and ravine. In most history books one will find Hirschgrund. Yet given the preference of one or the other, the names of both were both correct, according to multiple sources.  Given the need to cross their Ts and dot the I’s the debate on which name is correct was one of the reasons for the delay in allowing the construction to start.

The other was the city council’s rescinding of the contract to the first firm in favor of the second because the costs were cheaper and the second one was left out of the discussion the first time around. There had been four but only three officially presented their proposals.

In either case, now that the matter over the name has been settled, not to mention the costs and time wasted in “yammering” about it, construction on this natural bridge is about to begin. June is the starting date and the project is expected to take a year to complete. How the bridge will be rebuilt will be presented when the finished product opens to foot traffic for privacy purposes. But it does lead to the question of how this bridge- abandoned for almost five decades- will be reconstructed…..

….or whether it should remain as is: a natural bridge. If that was the case, then the City of Glauchau would learn a great deal from the City of London’s Natural Bridge project.  🙂

This was the reason behind this pic of the week after my visit to Glauchau. Not to mention to the plea mentioned in the Instagram page: It’s just a bridge! Fix the damn thing for once!

Fast Fact: Yammering is German for “jammern” and means simply to complain a great deal like a kindergartner.

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