Venice: City of Bridges- Guest Column

There are two different types of historic bridges: One that stands out in terms of its design and history and one that integrates itself in a setting, where if visited, one can experience the culture that both the bridge and the area surrounding it offer. One cannot modernize with a new crossing without understanding the implications they have with the neighborhood or landscape. And this is where this guest column comes about.

I happened to stumble across this column by accident and wished I hadn’t for I have yet to visit Italy and explore some of the finest bridges in the country. Italy is home to thousands of crossings dating as far back as the Roman Empire. This include some of the bridges that were built before and rebuilt after the fall of the Empire, including some by King Theoderich (see my article on this topic), such as the aqueducts in Rome (as described in another article here.) Then there are the bridges serving the waters of Florence……

….and this city, Venice.

Home to over 2.5 million inhabitants (with 260,000 living directly in the city center), the city is home to over 430 bridges, including two of the most famous landmarks of the city: The Ponte di Rialto and the Bridge of Sighs. Both of these bridges, dating back to the late 1500s, are part of the majority that can be easily reached by boat or gondola. A guide to the highly recommended bridges to visit in Venice can be accessed by link here.

Yet this guest column written by a columnist who focuses on life in cities and sunsets, puts together Venice’s historic bridges with the colorful faces that the city has to offer. It is a long column about her adventures through the city, and her impressions lead to readers like this one to add this city to the places to visit and bridgehunt- very high up in the Top 3. To look at Venice’s bridges, have a look at the summary below and click to read to the end. When done, you will not regret it like I didn’t but more like provide an incentive to go there and have a look. Enjoy! 🙂

The city of bridges, as it is fondly known, is everything you would imagine it to be. It has a surreal feeling when there, living up to all of its stereotypical features; pretty bridges over winding canals, narrow paths nestled between old tall brick buildings, gondolas and motor boats carrying fruit and vegetables, singing gondoliers […]

via VENICE – CITY OF BRIDGES — LIFE I WANT TO LEAD

 

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Thought of the Day: Maintenance is Preservation

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This photo was taken by fellow pontist Will Truax which needs no explanation. This sign can be found at the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts, which is a National Historical Site. Albeit not a historic bridge, you can find our more about its history here. This saying applies to all historic places, inlcuding bridges, something that we seem to forget nowadays, in the age of modernization and waste.

Some Food for Thought! 🙂

 

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Thought of the Day: Maintenance Is Preservation

23722448_1733664680040481_644604215249984068_n

This photo was taken by fellow pontist Will Truax which needs no explanation. This sign can be found at the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts, which is a National Historical Site. Albeit not a historic bridge, you can find our more about its history here. This saying applies to all historic places, inlcuding bridges, something that we seem to forget nowadays, in the age of modernization and waste.

Some Food for Thought! 🙂

 

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What’s in a Name? a Guide to Naming Bridges (And Other Things)

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What’s in a name? Somewhere in New York City, a new set of twin bridges will be named after New York Governor Mario Cuomo for his years of service in the Big Apple, the state and in the Republican Party. It would be the 12th bridge in the metropolitan area to have been named after a famous person, including the two well-known American politicians. Despite leaving their marks on their legacies, what in a name?

 

What’s in a name?  In states, like Oklahoma, bridges have been named for politicians who wanted to be famous during their time in office, but whose political careers were marred by scandal. They include the likes of Henry Simpson Johnston, Frank Lynch and Raymond Gary- the first was impeached and thrown out after two years as governor; the second took kickbacks while representative and the other “bought organs for the churches and pianos for the bawds,” as the secretary used in her title of the biography, bashing the male half of the husband-wife team. What’s in a name?

 

What’s in a name? Somewhere in the United States, bridges are being conceived and names are being brought up after current members of Congress and the White House. Whether it is a suspension bridge spanning the Minnesota River east of Granite Falls- making it the longest in the world- named after Paul Ryan, a piece of slab bridge over the Ohio River in Cincinnati named after Mitch McConnell, A concrete deck cantilever bridge with a marble statue named after Donald Trump in Washington, and even a series of cable-stayed bridges with a mermaid statue resembling Ms. Conway. These people are famous for undoing the legacy of President Obama that had benefitted much of the American population, almost all of whom think these people deserve to get the boot earliest after the Congressional Elections next year, which if Democrats retake Congress by the widest of margins, impeachment, and call for new presidential elections will definitely be on the table.  What’s in a name?

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What’s in a name? In Pittsburgh, three sister bridges, each built in the late 1920s, each having a similar design, are named after three local but national favorites: Rachel Carson, Andy Warhol and Roberto Clemente, each setting their marks in the areas of environment, arts and sports respectively; each one has posters, statues and other decorations served in honor and memory. Each one we remember in our history books. What’s in a name?

 

What’s in a name? Many bridges are named after famous people, yet 75% really were not that famous, unless you are thinking of “dollar and sense.” If we look at each sign on the structure, we sometimes have to ask the following questions: 1. Who were these people? 2. How did they leave their mark in history? 3. Was their legacy beneficial or a hindrance? If we look at the bridges that were named after unknown politicians, many of us don’t even know who they really were, let alone don’t want to even know about them because of corruption, scandals and other policies that harmed the American public and our allies. Is our history becoming based on how politicians perform “on stage” on Capitol Hill? Let alone in our state legislature?  If so, then may the most attractive jobs in America be a politician, for like lawyers (many, not all of them), they love to lie, deceive, gaslight and even rob the common person, regardless of social, ethical, religious and psychological backgrounds. If we want that, then we might as well have bridges named after Hollywood film stars who have done the stuff politicians have done, for it would have the exact same effect.

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When I think of America, I think of the people who really did make a difference in terms of transforming the country to what it is today. I think of Giovanni de Verrazano who discovered New York, and whose bridge, Othmar H. Ammann’s last prized landmark before his death in 1965, was named after him. That bridge is still connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn. I think of Daniel Boone, who opened the new frontier for settlers. There had been a bridge named for him before it was imploded in place of a new bland concrete slab bridge in 2016. I think of George Washington, who led the colonies to victory, presided over the Constitution and was our first president. While there were several bridges named after him, many are being wiped off the map. The same applies to other structures named after the founding fathers.  And while we have several structures named in honor and memory of the veterans who fought in the wars, the aesthetic value is really bland in taste and the artistic value has really gotten lost in the pile of steel and concrete.

 

Have we lost our true value of our culture, our history and even our identity?  Have we given up too much of our freedom and creative talents to make the best for others, while giving the narccists who have done nothing good the honors they don’t deserve?  Have we forgotten the concept of being honored for our own merits?  When I look at the bridges named after Rachel Carson, Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol in Pittsburgh, I see the reason behind them getting their honors, for they contributed to shaping American society to what is still is today. Even having bridges named in honor of Stan (the Man) Musial and James Eads in St. Louis are justified, for the former left his mark in baseball and the latter for creating the first steel bridge in America. Have we seen politicians contribute as these people have done? The answer to that question is, in my humble opinion is no, with only a few exceptions.  It’s really time to take a look at how we honor our people. Do we honor them because of money and power or because they carry a certain title? Or do we honor them for their merits and contributions to American society?

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Each of us has our set of guidelines. Mine would be on the basis of creating and innovating things that have contributed to America in terms of science and technology, history, culture and society. I hope you all have the same ideas as I do, if we really want to move forward as an entity that should be setting examples for other countries.

 

And while my ( not yet honored) candidates would make up a quarter of the country’s population, I have my top five who deserve to have their bridges named after them, and I hope the designs will be more appealing than just having green road signs at each entrance. My top five would be:  Barack Obama, Red Cloud, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Othmar H. Ammann. Honorably mentioned would include Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Sally Ride, Vince Lombardi, Carrie Fisher, Sinclair Lewis, Garrison Keillor, Charlie Wilson, George HW Bush, Harper Lee and Massasoit, just to name a few. We need a few crossings but not necessarily new bridges. We just need to be sensible as to naming the next bridges after famous people.

 

And so, for the Fourth of July, I must ask you: Who would deserve to be honored on a bridge and/or other places? Think very carefully before deciding…..

 

The  Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and sister column The Flensburg Files would like to wish all Americans at home and abroad a Happy Fourth of July. Think of the people who made a difference for this country and how it set an example for others.

 

God bless you!

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The Bike Challenge

The author and Galloping Gertie on the road. Shot of the Flutmulde Bridge at Sachsenburg, Thuringia. Photo taken in August 2014

Co-produced with sister column:

In the past few weeks, three out of four of us have been nominated for the Ice-Bucket Challenge, whereby of the 75%, four out of five of us have actually done this challenge, either by donating $100 or dumping the bucket of ice water on our heads and donating an amount of our choice to the cause, which is fighting ALS. This disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, disables the nerves and spinal area in the body, affecting the person’s motor skills.

The disease was named after the famous New York Yankees baseball star, who retired 75 years ago after being diagnosed with the disease and died less than two years later. He was the player famous for his comment: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

The idea of the bucket challenge came from Bill Gates and has received mixed reviews from those willing to present themselves doing this rather absurd act on social network and those who think society has become dumber by doing this. Personally, it would not be my cup of tea, as there are other crippling diseases that are just as deadly as ALS. This includes Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative muscular disease that kills a person just as tortuously as this one. This is speaking from the experience after losing a close relative and two friends to this disease. And even if there was a bucket challenge for MS, I would go for the $100 donation instead of suffering from hypothermia thanks to a large bucket of ice cold water. Sorry people.

But the ice bucket challenge presented a brilliant idea for another fundraiser- the bike challenge. With the increase in popularity of bikes and the proliferation of bike trails both in the US and in Europe, why not use the bicycle as the challenge for raising funds?

The idea is simple.

One can challenge someone to bike a certain amount of kilometers and donate an amount of choice. Yet if he/she refuses, then a fixed amount would have to be donated, just like in the ice bucket challenge. The person would have to provide photos and tracking information to prove that the kms were biked and pass the challenge to others who are either avid bike fans or are willing to take up the challenge.

For example:  If I was challenged to bike 50 km in one day, I would pick and choose a route that is bike friendly, like the bike trail along the Unstrut River in Thuringia between Erfurt and Artern, for example. Then I would provide a tracker and some photos, and after doing so, would challenge my next three compatriots to do the same. The amount donated can be based on whether I fulfill the challenge (which would be a fixed amount in my favor) or if  I pass and have to donate based on what was fixed by the organizer, as Bill Gates did with his ALS Challenge.  By the way, I did take the challenge a couple weeks ago, as you can see in the pics here.

A railroad bridge converted to a bike trail crossing at Artern.

Such a bike challenge is useful for not only fundraising drives to combat diseases, like MS or cancer. Yet it can be useful for projects to restore historic places, like bridges, churches and houses, and other causes. For grassroots groups seeking fund-raising posibilities, this challenge is healthy, affordable and provides a challenge to those who would take advantage of the great outdoors and provide a sense of personal achievement, instead of making a total fool out of him/herself by dumping a bucket of ice water over the head, risking a heart attack, hypothermia and other health issues. Furthermore, as you can see in my challenge, you can discover many new sights based on your interest (and the interest of others)

So if you are one of those groups seeking fund-raising possibilities and would like to challenge people, this is one worth considering. It runs parallel to the ice-bucket challenge, but it is a lot more interesting, fun, healthier and even safer than the other challenge. And even if you decide for another challenge- like a friend of mine from Minnesota did and thought of a creative way to challenge others to buy extra products to be donated to a local food shelter- it is much more beneficial than to be soaked in ice cold water, especially now, as my instincts are telling me that winter is coming much sooner than expected. It is already cold and fall-like, with snow already falling in Rapid City, South Dakota– not typical of September weather and something where the ice bucket challenge is not a good idea to begin with. 😉

Author’s note: The Bridges of Unstruttal will be featured later in the fall/ winter, as the author has yet to complete the second half of the leg from Artern to Naumburg. In the meantime, enjoy the preview of what is yet to come.

 

In School in Germany: The Pocket Guide to Industrial History

Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011

 

Joint article and forum with sister column the Flensburg Files in conjunction with the series on In School in Germany. Except this example focuses on Infrastructure, using Historic Bridges as an Example.

A while back, shortly before my debut teaching about industrialization in the US and Germany between 1870 and 1914, I had put out a question as to how to approach the topic of infrastructure in that era, in particular when it comes to bridge building, and how it ties in with the usage and proliferation of the material of steel- a replacement to iron. For more information on this inquiry, please click here for details.

Here is the follow-up on this particular topic, which has me thinking about a creative way of getting students acquainted with infrastructure and industrialization:

During the block-session, which consists of two 45-minute sessions into a 90-minute one, students had an opportunity to write down their notes in a small pocket brochure, compiled on my part. This is what the pocket brochure looked like:

The notes to be taken by the students (consisting of high school juniors) were in connection with a series of mini-presentations that they were supposed to give, based on the following topics that were given to them to prepare two weeks beforehand:

Iron and Steel

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871

The Chicago School of Architecture

Railroads

Bridges

Canals

The Automobile

The Roads

Inventions (Electricity, the Telephone, etc.)

Each presentation was 3-5 minutes long, with questions to follow.  The exception to the topic was the one on bridges, presented by yours truly.  The topics were presented in a way that materials go first, for they played hand-to-hand in the development of other forms of infrastructure and transportation.

The results were astounding. Lots of information on American and European inventors making their marks, yet one would need a couple more sessions to digest all the information presented.  Some questions in connection with this topic you can find in the Files’ article here.

The problem with presenting infrastructure and industrialization is that the development of both Germany/Europe and the US was exponential, that it would be difficult to cover everything. It even applies for bridges, as dozens of American and European bridge builders were responsible for hundreds of bridge designs and bridge examples that existed during that time (and still do today). Plus some of the bridge builders of that time period had their own colorful history that is worth mentioning; especially when it comes to those immigrating to the US from what is today Germany, Poland, Austria, France and Hungary (where they were once known as The French Kingdom, Prussia and later the German Empire, Austro-Hungarian (or Habsburg Empire) and the Russian Empire (as Poland became part of the empire in 1795 as part of a partition agreement with Prussia)).

The end result was a compromise presented by the history teacher upon evaluating the session: a pocket guide to certain aspects of infrastructure with a focus on a country and some key examples worth noting. If divided up into the aforementioned topics, it would make the most sense, as for each aspect, one can present some key facts that are relevant to the topic of infrastructure and industrialization, along with some fun exercises . Plus if the booklet is 10-15 pages per topic, it will be sufficient enough for pupils to get a whiff of the aspects of history that have been left at the wayside, while the remaining artefacts become a distant memory,  but at the same time, be encouraged to preserve what is left of history or take measures that matter to them. After all, when we talk about environment and protection, our heritage technically belongs to this fragile umbrella.

For the pontists and historians alike, some ideas of how to construct such a booklet pertaining to bridges is a tricky one, for especially in the United States, the topics and the number of bridge builder and bridge examples have to be narrowed down to only a handful of examples. So if we look at the proposal for such a booklet for Germany, we have the following:

Part I: German emigrants- focusing on John Roebling, Albert Fink, Gustav Lindenthal, Wendell Bollmann, Joseph Strauss und Lawrence H. Johnson

Part II: German bridge engineers (who stayed in Germany)- Friedrich Voss, Hermann Matthäus, Gustav Eifel, Hermann Gerber, Franz Meyer

Part III: Areas of bridge building- Cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Halle (Saale), Leipzig, etc.- choosing three; Canals (Baltic-North Sea, Dortmund-Ems, Elbe-Lübeck) and a pair of River Examples

Part IV: Notable Works- using two bridge examples, like the Rendsburg High Bridge, for example, and presenting some interesting facts about them.

If you were asked to construct a booklet similar to the one mentioned here, for the US, how would you structure it? What contents would you put in there and what examples would you include?  You can place your comments here, on the facebook pages under the Flensburg Files and/or Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, or in the LinkedIn page under The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  Do not be surprised if you have a question coming from either the author or one of the readers pertaining to a booklet on a similar topic but pertaining to Canada or another country.

Those wishing for a copy of the booklet I made for my history class or a power point presentation on bridges in Germany and the US can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Please be aware that both are in German and that if you want the English version, you will have to wait a couple weeks.

And now to the Files’ Guessing Quiz pertaining to Industrial History, which you can click on here.

The Oldest Bridge Book

Question for the Forum:

Here is an interesting question for you readers to start off with:

What was the oldest known bridge book you have ever read? When was it written and what was the title?

Do you know about a bridge book that is the oldest ever written?

There is an explanation that warrants this question for discussion:

I’ve been quite busy with my latest bridge project I’m doing for a history professor at the University in Jena, Germany on Roman Aqueducts, focusing on the reconstruction of the ones in Italy after Theoderich the Great took power in 493 AD. Going through the sources to find enough information can be a chore, as a there are a few books about this topic, not to mention some of the inscriptions in Latin that had to be deciphered into English to determine when the aqueducts were built, let alone rebuilt upon orders of the Goth. As I was going through the work, I happened to find a book on Roman Aqueducts, located right in the library at the University!

The author of the book is Esther van Deman and the title: “The Building of Roman Aqueducts” It featured nine examples of aqueducts that were built between 20 BC and 250 AD, with four of them being rebuilt after 476 AD, when the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist with Odoacre taking power in Italy. It also featured the art of constructing them, using various materials ordered by the emperors, beginning with Augustus, and designing them using the stone or brick arches that were engineered by the Roman builders with the goal of bringing water to the region. After all, the Romans needed water for all sorts of purposes, including the public baths in many cities, irrigation, plumbing, and even drinking.

But when was this book published?  1984?  1977?   1966?

1934!!!!

The Carnegie Institute of Washington, DC published this work, which contained information and photos eighty years ago! This meant that with the exception of bridge examples presented by the bridge companies, like King, Wrought Iron Bridge, Clinton, or even the ones in Canton, Ohio or Pittsburgh, bridge books were being produced at least eighty years ago, with photos and all. But was this book the oldest ever published?

Doubtful!   My assumption was the book on the Great American Bridges by Donald Jackson was the oldest one ever written about (historic) bridges, being published in 1984- fifty years later. Yet I also discovered a couple more books written a year later about bridges in Pennsylvania and Australia. Yet if my assumptions are wrong by sixty years, then this means that there were many books- ancient ones- that had existed before that.

So let’s start with the forum by answering the questions I brought forward at the beginning: the oldest book you have written and the oldest known book that exists about bridges. Place your comments here or through the social network pages bearing the Chronicles’ name, with hopes that other stories will come to light.

As I’m on the same page regarding Roman Aqueducts……