Dodd Ford to receive a makeover

Dodd Ford Bridge spanning the Blue Earth River near Amboy, Minnesota. Photo taken by the author in September 2010

Truss bridge to be placed onto concrete stringer with the decking encased. Work scheduled to begin in Summer 2014

It is a beautiful piece of artwork when crossing the Blue Earth River, as seen in the video produced five years ago. It was built by a bridge engineer who immigrated to the United States from Germany and later went into politics. Despite being closed to traffic for five years and being threatened with demolition, it is a local landmark that is nationally significant with a unique appearance.

The Dodd Ford Bridge is now getting the rehabilitation it deserves. Residents living in and around Amboy, located south of Mankato in Blue Earth County, Minnesota have found a way to save the bridge by getting the support needed from the county as well as agencies on the state and national levels, with two goals in mind: saving the bridge and reopening it to traffic again. Both of them will be realized later on this year.

Workers will place the truss superstructure onto a modern concrete stringer bridge, encasing the lower chord with new decking, and adding new ornamental railings in the process. New paint and other repairs will be in the mix as well. The cost for the whole project: $1.3 million, $130,000 of which had already been allotted by the county for the project with the rest being provided by grants and other financial resources. Construction on this bridge is set to begin this summer, and while it is unknown how long the project will last, once the bridge is reopen to traffic, farmers and tourists alike will at last have the opportunity to cross the structure again. The 150-foot long bridge had been closed to heavy vehicles for over two decades and to all but pedestrian traffic since 2009. Upon inspection by both official contractors as well as private sources, the truss bridge itself was in pristine condition, leading to the question of “…why it was closed to begin with,” according to one source.

The Dodd Ford Bridge was built as a Camelback through truss bridge in 1901 by Lawrence H. Johnson, a bridge engineer who had once presided over the operations of Hennepin Bridge Company but built this structure as an independent contractor. Born in northern Germany (with sources pointing to Flensburg in Schleswig-Holstein) in 1862, Johnson emigrated to the US in 1875 and eventually to Minnesota in 1884, when he started his bridge-building business. He served in the Minnesota legislature, representing the Republican party and Hennepin County from 1901 to 1910, during which he was also president of the Hennepin Bridge Company in Minneapolis.  He died in 1947 but it is unknown where he was interred.  Johnson built numerous bridges in Minnesota, both as an independent contractor as well as during his days as president at Hennepin, but the Dodd Ford Bridge, as well as the Old Barn Resort Bridge near Preston in Fillmore County are the only two structure left with his name on there (surprisingly enough, the latter has been closed to traffic since 2010 and is also the subject of efforts to reopen it to traffic again).

If the bridge becomes encased with concrete decking, it will not be the first one that will receive this treatment. Several Minnesota truss bridges have received similar treatments and are still in operation. Most notable ones include the Merriam Street and Washington Avenue Bridges both in Minneapolis. The former consists of one of the spans of the original Broadway Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River that was relocated to its present site east of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in 1987, spanning the mighty river’s small channel. The latter spans the railroad tracks in downtown and was encased in 2001, with the trusses widened to accommodate traffic. While questions have been raised regarding the historic integrity of the bridge being compromised through this type of rehabilitation, many people have embraced this claiming it’s “…better that than to have no historic truss bridge at all.”

Compromise or not, the Dodd Ford Bridge is about to receive new life again, thanks to the efforts undertaken to save this bridge from becoming scrap metal. With 50% of the number of historic bridges gone across the country and Blue Earth County only having a handful left, including the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge, people are taking a stand to preserve what is left of infrastructural history in America. The Dodd Ford Bridge not only represents that, but also a bridge that was built by an immigrant from a country that produced many bridge engineers of their time to build great infrastructures. And like Germany, the US and with regards to the Dodd Ford Bridge, the locals are fighting to save the unique few that are left for the next generations to enjoy.

Author’s Note: More information is needed about Lawrence H. Johnson’s life as a bridge builder and politician, as well as a confirmation of where he was born and where his tomb is located. If you have any information, please send it to the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Information will be added once it’s received.

Click onto the links to learn more about the bridge and Lawrence Johnson, including the photos taken by the author during his visit in 2010 as well as Nathan Holth during his visit last year.

Newsflyer: Christmas Eve 2013

Here’s to great success! Happy Holidays! Photo taken at the Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany in December, 2013

City Council Approves Public-Private Project for Historic Bridge; Restoration of Another Historic Bridge Under Way; So is Voting for Ammann Awards

It’s becoming a rarity that we are getting a series of good news about the future of historic bridges, even more so when you have the public sector involved. But at Christmas Time, it is almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. Here’s why as the Chronicles has a special Newsflyer dedicated to some preservation projects that are under way right now!

City Council Approves Public-Private-Project for Green Bridge

The Des Moines City Council last night unanimously approved a joint project to raise funding for the restoration of the Jackson Street /5th Street (a.k.a. Green) Bridge. The vote was 7-0 and reflects on the outcome that had come about a week earlier. There, the Friends of the Green Bridge presented the proposal for the project to the City Council, which included speeches by many people involved. There has been unanimous support for the project ever since the facebook and petition pages were launched in November, which was one of the key factors, leading to last night’s decision for the project. The approval includes relegating the $750,000 originally set aside for bridge demolition for the restoration project, plus raising additional funds for the project, pending on what is actually needed. While a report from the construction firm Shuck-Britson claimed that between $2m and $3.75m is needed for the project, another  firm, Jensen Construction, also based in Des Moines, will undergo a thorough inspection to determine the needs of the bridge.  Fundraising efforts will start in the next year, the Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest there.  Once deemed as condemned, the Green Bridge, built in 1898 by a local bridge builder is receiving a new life from unexpected sources, namely, the people wanting to keep the bridge- and now the City Council. 🙂

More information about the bridge can be found here.  An interesting story about Jensen Construction and its history can be found here. Article about the project: here.

Author’s Note: More updates, discussions and other facts about the bridge can be found here, but please keep in mind that restoration examples can be found in the Chronicles’ facebook page.

 

Restoration of Bunker Mill Bridge Underway

Rising out of the ashes caused by arson in August, another Iowa historic bridge, located 170 miles east of Des Moines, is currently being restored. The Bunker Mill Bridge, built by the King Bridge Company in 1887 and reinforced by the Iowa Bridge Company in 1913, is located southeast of Kalona in Washington County. The bridge’s decking was torched in August 2013- the same time as the Historic Bridge Weekend. Yet, thanks to the county’s approval of selling the bridge to the organization, Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge and the fundraising that has been done so far, work is being undertaken on the bridge. At the moment, after removing the charred decking in November, crews have jacked up the bridge’s superstructure to strengthen the abutments. I-beams, which support the decking of the bridge, is needed for the work, and many bridge parts are being strengthened through welding and new parts that coincide with the original construction of the bridge- termed in-kind restoration.  Nels Raynor of BACH Steel, a candidate for the 2013 Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement, is overseeing the project with 20-years of experience and many successful projects under his belt already. While the cost for the project has been reduced to $275,000 (from the $450k that was originally estimated), the funding is over a third of the way finished and more is needed. For more information, click here for details.  A step in the right direction and thanks to the work of many dedicated people, Suzanne Micheau, Julie Bowers and others, the bridge is making a comeback bit by bit. 🙂

 

Voting underway for Ammann Awards

Don’t forget that the Chronicles’ Ammann Awards is in full swing. Because of the high number of entries this year, you still have a chance to download and fill out the ballot (click here) and submit it via e-mail before January 3rd. The winners for each of the eight categories will be announced on the 7th. If you have problems filling out the ballot, an e-mail with your favorites is also fine, too.

At the end of the year, there will also be a Smith Awards voting for the category of Biggest Bonehead Story. There the voting will be different as articles will be posted on the Chronicles’ facebook page, and the winner will be based on the number of likes received. Like the Chronicles and follow for more details.

 

Author’s note to close things off: The Chronicles was a bit absent this month due to a tour through Berlin’s Christmas markets. Berlin is Germany’s capital. More information, photos and articles about the Christmas markets can be found through sister column, The Flensburg Files. Articles about the various markets and interesting facts will be posted both on the page as well as on its facebook page during the holiday season.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and the Flensburg Files would like to wish you and yours the best and safest this holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy 2014 from our house to yours! 😀

 

 

 

 

Petit Jean Bridge receives new home- for the third time!

The Petit Jean Bridge in front of Danville City Hall. Photos courtesy of J. Randall Houp

Yell County, Arkansas. Home of Mattie Ross. And Rooster Cogburn, who saved her life. There are some things about the county that make the people become that of true grit: hard working and honest, and valuing their history.  The Danville-Mickles Bowstring Arch Bridge is one of those bridges that is characteristic of the historic places that people work hard to preserve for it has a unique history that belongs to the county, especially when an event is tied to the bridge’s story. The bridge was built by the King Bridge Company in 1880, contracting to representative S.A. Oliver to build the 100-foot long bridge over the Petit Jean River at Danville at a cost of $3100. The bridge remained in service until its relocation to Mickles in 1922 (which included being disassembled and being stored two years beforehand.)

At each of the two sites, a tragedy occurred, which scarred the county and its bridge in terms of history. In June 1883 a mob lynched John H. Coker and Dr. John Flood after they (together with Rial Blocher) conspired to allow Jack and Bud Daniel to escape from the local jail located next to the bridge in Danville. Blocher’s life would be spared, only to escape from jail in September and disappear forever. Both Blocher and the Daniel Brothers were wanted for the murder of Bill Potter. At its new home in Mickles, a tragedy occurred on the bridge in June 1951, when Charles Osburn fell through the bridge with his tractor, killing him instantly and injuring two others that were with him. He was only two days shy of his 16th birthday. This is in connection with the five floods between 1904 and 2008 which spared the bridge.

In 2006, a historic survey was written and submitted to the state historic preservation office, which was later forwarded to the National Park Service, who listed the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.  After years of fundraising and pursuing grants and support from the private and public sectors, the days of the Petit Jean Bridge spanning the same river for 133 years at two locations are officially numbered.

On 13 October, the bridge was taken off the banks of the river, loaded onto a semi-truck and hauled back to Danville to be set on new concrete piers. The process of bringing the bridge back home to Danville took only 30 minutes. Part 3 of the bridge’s life is about to start. Using the bridge as a tourist attraction, the bridge will be spanning the green lawn of the town’s city hall, with bike trails encircling and even crossing it, with plans to have the structure ready for use next year. For the bridge, it has already accomplished two feats in its extended lifespan: it is the second oldest bridge left in Arkansas and is the only bridge in the state to have three different homes. For the latter, it is rare to see a bridge be relocated more than once because of the stresses on the superstructure caused by providing restraints on it, being lifted by crane and even the travel. While such multiple relocation attempts have failed with other historic bridges, like the Ellingson Bridge in Allamakee County, Iowa, the Petit Jean Bridge was one of the rare occurances where relocation for the third time was not a problem.

We’ve seen many bowstring arch bridges being the center of attraction for parks and bike trails, used as exhibits or picnic areas. The Petit Jean Bridge has now joined the ranks, while at the same time, its history will be shared with others who may not have known about it until now. As Yell County has numerous historic bridges still in use or reused for recreational purposes, it is not surprising that people take their historic artefacts seriously. And if that is not enough, it has garnered one more fame- apart from that of True Grit: its nomination for the 2013 Ammann Awards for Bridge of the Year and Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge. Whether it wins in one or both categories depend on your vote in December.

 

The Author wishes to thank J. Randall Houp for providing information about the bridge via mail and allowing use of the photos. More photos and facts about the bridge can also be found here

The Bridges of Halle (Saale), Germany

Berliner Brücke in Halle (Saale) Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/de/2/23/Berliner-Bruecke-Halle.jpg

Halle (Saale)- the birthplace of George Friedrich Handel. The second largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt and representing the second half of the metropolis Leipzig-Halle, which has 100,000 of the metro’s 600,000 inhabitants as well as one of the most renowned universities in Germany. Yet when you get off the train in Halle, you may be turned off by the ugly high-rise buildings that date back to the days of the German Democratic Republic, a communist state that existed until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German Reunification in 1990. Yet when you walk further towards the City Center, you will see another face of Halle that will sweep you off your feet: architecture dating to the Baroque Period, a statue of Handel overlooking the Cathedral and the Town Square, and further towards the Saale River, there’s the Giebichenstein Castle and the Halle Zoo, one of the largest zoos in the eastern half of Germany (Neuenbundesländer).

Surprisingly, if you are a pontist, you will be surprised to find that Halle has a wide selection of historic bridges that exist along the Saale River, its tributaries and to the south, the White Elster River, which meanders through Leipzig enroute to the Vogtland region in Thuringia and Saxony. There are 131 bridges in and around Halle; 14 of which are declared historically significant and protected by state preservation laws.  It is very rare to find historic bridges of at least four different types, or until recently have more than one cantilever truss spans, dating back to the 1880s. And in terms of German history, many of these bridges survived the test of time, including World War II, in contrast to the majority of cities and regions, whose bridges were severely damaged or destroyed through air raids and attempts by the Nazis to fend off advancing Allied troops. This plus the history that is still being sought on these bridges is what makes the bridges of the City of Salt unique.

This article will take you on a tour of the bridges that you should see, when spending a day in Halle. This includes a pair of bridges that no longer exist but are still part of the memories of the Hallenser people that still live there as well as those who were born there but have long since moved away for better possibilities. So without further ado, here is a small guide of the Bridges of Halle, keeping in mind that there are links available that will bring you to the photos and info on the bridge:

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Schafbrücke: 

This bridge, built in 1733, is the last crossing along the White Elster before it empties into the Saale River in the Hallense suburb of Böllberg. It used to serve a main trading route between Merseberg and Magdeburg before it lost its importance because of the railroads. Today, the stone and concrete arch bridge serves the White Elster bike trail between Halle and Leipzig. Yet the bridge has seen its better days as the arches have deteriorated to a point where reconstruction is badly needed in order to avoid the structure to collapse.

Halle-Neustadt Railroad Bridge: Spanning the Saale River in the southwest end of Halle, this eight-span stone arch bridge is one of the longest of its kind in the city, as well as the oldest. Most likely dating back to the late 1800s, this bridge used to serve an InterCity train line connecting the city with Kassel and Cologne. Thanks to privatization, combined with the realignment of long-distance rail lines, the bridge now serves regional services to Sangerhausen, Halberstadt and Nordhausen, enroute to its original destination. The bridge is one of the hardest to reach for a photographer needs to fight trees, thorns and tall grass before reaching the east bank and the bridge itself.

ICE Saale-Elster Viaduct:  With a total length of 8.5 kilometers plus two more for a branch to Halle, the ICE Saale-Elster Viaduct currently holds the title of being the longest railway viaduct in Germany. Completed in 2013, the viaduct features concrete box girder spans crossing the two rivers and swamp areas nearby but also features a steel through arch span that spans the branch that breaks off the main route to Halle. Although it passes the village of Schkopau (and with that a 1936 railroad truss bridge spanning the Saale just a kilometer south of the bridge), the viaduct is part of the ICE line connecting Erfurt and Leipzig, which since its opening in December 2015, has cut down the travel time by 60% to only 30 minutes between the two cities. The record will remain until 2017 when another viaduct located south of Erfurt will open, which will be longer than this one.

Rabeninselbrücke: 

This is the second youngest bridge in the city and the youngest to span the Saale. This bridge spans the Saale’s main river at the entrance to Rabeninsel (Raven’s Island) and features a cable-stayed bridge, whose pylon angles towards Böllberg Weg and the cables support the roadway. The roadway resembles a raindrop as it encircles the pylon. Built in 2000, the bridge measures 85 meters long and is 20 meters tall, easily seen from the main highway a kilometer away.

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Hafenbahnbrücke: 

A few months ago, the Chronicles did a segment on this mystery bridge, spanning the Saale River at the confluence of the Elisabeth Saale and Middle Saale Rivers, west of Böllberg Weg. This bridge was built in 1884 and used to serve a rail line connecting the city with Magdeburg (north) and Merseburg (south) for over 80 years. When the line was abandoned in the 1970s, the lenticular through truss span, measured at 40 meters in length, was rehabilitated and converted into a bike and pedestrian crossing, which still serves its function today. The bridge also has a dark side- and a memorial plaque is placed on the truss as a marker of this tragedy. In the night of 13-14 March, 1919, Karl Meseberg, who was a revolutionary leader during World War I, was murdered on the bridge with his body landing in the Saale. It was found five days later. While the bridge shows its bright side during the day, at dusk, one can feel the presence of a ghost at the bridge, keeping people away from the crossing. This may be in connection with this unfortunate event, but more info in the form of eyewitnesses and evidence is needed to confirm the claims of a ghost at the bridge.  If you look to the south of the bridge, you will find a blue tied-arch bridge about 100 meters away. That bridge was built in 2000 and carry water lines connecting the southern and western parts of the city.

Genzmer Bridge: 

This steel through arch bridge is located over the Saale River at William Jost Strasse north of the Hafenbahnbrücke. Built in 1912, the grey-colored span is similar to the Hollernzollern Bridge in Cologne in terms of the design of the bridge, but the portal bracing resemble a bridge located west of Steinbrücke in neighboring Magdeburg. But when passing underneath the bridge, one will see the stone arched approach spans carrying the emblem of Halle on there- an impressive construction by the builder of the bridge, whoever it was.

Mansfeld Bridge:

Spanning the Saale River at the Mansfelder Strasse, there are three crossings located within 60 meters of each other. The oldest span is a polygonal Warren pony truss with riveted connections that used to serve streetcar and vehicular traffic. Yet because of its structural obliqueness- too narrow and too light to support traffic- a vehicular crossing to the north was built in the early 1990s, which was followed by a separate streetcar crossing to the south a decade later. The truss span was later converted to pedestrian use by strenthening the trusses and adding a concrete and brick deck. An economic and interesting way to preserve a piece of history.

Peissnitz Bridge:

Apart from the Hafenbahn, Giebichenstein, and Mühlentor Bridges, the Peissnitz Bridge is one of the crown jewels as far as Halle’s bridges are concerned. Spanning the Saale River at Peissnitz Island, carrying the street carrying the same name, the bridge is one of the most ornamental of bridges, for the 1898 structure features a cantilever Pratt truss design, with ornamental towers supporting street lights, and red quarry stone arch approach spans, presenting its grey and red colors which are typical colors of the city. When built in 1898, the bridge was the only toll bridge in the city, as money was collected for people wanting to cross the bridge and enter Peissnitz Island. This was discontinued in 1921 and the bridge has operated as a free bridge ever since. The bridge is 103 meters long, 70 meters of which represent the main span. Despite sustaining damage during World War II, it was rebuilt in 1946 and was eventually converted to a pedestrian and bike crossing, which remains that way to this day.  The Peissnitz Bridge, located on the east end, is one of three bridges that provide access to the island, along with Schwanenbrücke and another bridge at the west end. The latter, built in the 1900s, was recently replaced with a steel truss bridge in 2013.

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Schwanenbrücke: Located at Weinberg at the northwest end of Peissnitz Island, this 1893 bridge is one of the oldest standing in Halle. The structure features a wire suspension span with eyebar connections found at the steel towers. Its roadway features a Town Lattice truss design railing which together with the suspenders, support the wooden decking. The bridge was destroyed during World War II but was later rebuilt in 1946. It was renovated in 1992, which includes dismantling, sandblasting and improving the steel parts, and reerecting the span on new abutments made of brick and concrete. The abutments feature the name Schwanenbrücke on there. The bridge is open to cyclists and pedestrians wishing to enter the island from the northwest. The bridge is next to the island park railway station, which provides service to places on the island.

Steinmühlenbrücke:  

Spanning the Mühlgraben at Peissnitzstrasse, this 1912 closed spandrel arch bridge has some unique features making a stop a necessity. Like the Pfälzer Bridge, the railings feature a Howe truss  in an Art Deco design, all in concrete. Two pairs of cast iron lanterns, encased in concrete, decorated with gargoyles, can be found on each end of the 20 meter long span, which provides the lone access to Peissnitz Island and park area to the west, let alone the Peissnitz Bridge itself. The bridge was named after a water mill, located nearby that was built in the late 1800s and was made of stone. That mill still exists today.

 Krollwitzer Brücke (aka Giebichensteinbrücke): 

This bridge and neighboring Giebichenstein Castle on the lime cliffs of the Saale River go together like bread and butter. The three-span concrete arch bridge is the fourth crossing at this site, being built in 1928 replacing a steel Parker through truss bridge, whose predecessors included a pontoon bridge, ferry and a covered bridge. The bridge is 261 meters long, 60 of which consist of the largest arch span. The bridge features two sculptures on the south side facing neighboring Peissnitz Bridge, resembling cattle- making the bridge a real treat to see. The bridge was renovated in 1995 and again in 2011, but continues to serve vehicular and street car traffic connecting the city center with the western suburb of Krollwitz.

Pfälzerbrücke:

Like the Peissnitz Bridge, the Mühlentor Bridge, spanning Mühlgraben-a tributary of the Saale- at Neuwerk in the northern end of the city, is the most ornamental bridge but in the form of an arch bridge. Art Deco art on the bridge’s railing and four lamp posts can be seen when crossing the 1912 span by car or bike. The railings resemble a Howe truss made of concrete, a rarity one can see these days.

Burgbrücke: 

Located at the Robert Franz Ring, this Mühlengraben crossing is one of the newest bridges along this route. Little has been written about this bridge except for the fact that the steel deck arch span appears to date back to a time span between the 1990s, going back to the 1940s. In either case, the bridge’s lean appearance is attractive for many bridge photographers who enjoy a few minutes with the camera.

Berliner Brücke:

When leaving Halle (Saale) by train heading north, this bridge will be the last landmark to be seen on your way out. Today’s bridge, built in 2005, features a cable-stayed span that is 71 meters tall and 171 meters long, spanning the railroad tracks. Yet the bridge came at the cost of a steel eyebar suspension bridge with pony truss decking, which was built during the first World War, with the help of French soldiers. It was originally named the Hindenburg Bridge before it was changed after World War II. Despite being considered a historic landmark, excessive rust and corrosion, caused by diesel-powered trains passing underneath it, doomed the bridge, causing the city council to decide for a replacement span. The cable-stayed bridge was built to the north of the bridge and after its completion in 2005, the 1916 bridge was dismantled and sold for scrap, despite protests by many who wanted to keep the structure for reuse as a pedestrian bridge.

 

While some local newspapers have mentioned a bit about Halle’s bridges, more publicity on the structures was presented through a guide of Halle’s infrastructure, which was presented last year and included as many as 38 bridges in and around the city. Whether the article originally published in the Chronicles in 2012 as well as following newspaper articles had something to do with that or if people enjoy visiting the city’s bridges remains clear. But given the interest of tying the city’s bridges in with its history, it is a foregone conclusion that these historical structures will be properly cared for for generations to come, thus giving Halle several accolades for its heritage that had been kept under the rug by the East German government until 1989 but has shown its beautiful sides since then. And these 38 bridges, seen here in this guide (in German), together with a map of the bridges visited in 2011 and 2015, are one of many reasons why Halle is a place to visit when travelling through Germany and wanting a good bike tour through the city’s history and heritage. It is one of the cities I’ve since had on my top 10 German places to visit list. You’ll understand why when you get a chance to see it too. 🙂

Peissnitz Island Bridge Photo taken in Dec. 2015
Peissnitz Island Bridge Photo taken in Dec. 2015

More photos of the bridges in Halle can be found in the wordpress version of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Click HERE to get to the page. The photos were taken during the author’s visit in 2011, 2012 and 2015. 

 

 

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Halle (Saale) is famous for many markets and events honoring Handel and other music greats. This includes the Christmas market, which you can click here to read about. Courtesy of sister column The Flensburg Files.

Die Letzte Klappe (The last word/span): The Herrenbrücke in Lübeck, Germany

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/Herrenbruecke240803.jpg

It has been a few months since writing a review on a bridge book due to many commitments. But this first book review fits nicely with the topic on the Bridges of Lübeck in northern Germany, for it focuses on a landmark that should have been standing, but is no longer extant.

Located 6 kilometers north of the city in the suburb of Kucknitz, the Herrenbrücke has a history that is unique for the region and Europe. Located over the Trave and once hailed as the last bridge over this river before it empties into the Baltic Sea in Travemünde, only ten kilometers away, the Herrenbrücke was the only bridge in Germany that featured two single-leaf bascule bridges per roadway- four single leaf bascule spans all in all! Each span was 70 meters long. The height of the span over the Trave is over 50 meters tall. If one adds the approach spans, the total length of the bridge was over two kilometers. All in all, the Herrenbrücke was the largest bridge in Europe when it was bult in 1963 and opened to traffic at the beginning of 1964. Yet the 1964 span was the second crossing it this site. The very first crossing dates back to 1902 when a two-span swing deck truss bridge, using a Pratt design, was built. It was partially destroyed in a collision with the Swedish ship in 1909 and was rebuilt afterwards. In 1916, the bridge was electrified, allowing streetcars to cross the bridge providing a key connection between Siems and Kucknitz. The service was discontinued in 1958 and three years later, the suburbs and the City of Lübeck signed off on a contract to build the Herrenbrücke. Shortly after the new bridge was open to traffic, the steel truss swing bridge was removed.

But why did the bridge last for such a short time and had to be removed? Rainer Wiedemann, who lived near the bridge, documented the entire history of the bridge in his book, “Die Letzte Klappe: Abschied von der Herrenbrücke” (German for: The Last Word/Span: Farewell to the Herren-Bridge), which was published in 2011 and is available for ordering here. Mr. Wiedemann, who was born and raised in Lübeck and was a school teacher, documented the entire bridge prior to and during the removal process in 2005-06, which included detailed photos of the bridge, research into the bridge’s history (which included records of the bridge construction, old photos and postcards) and interviews with locals, city council members, and people who designed and built the Herren-Tunnel, the replacement of the Herrenbrücke which has been in service since 2005. Through this research, Wiedemann was able to look at the Herrenbrücke from all angles, including the reason why the Herrenbrücke had to be replaced after a short period in operation. The book is comparable with other books that were written about giant, popular crossings, such as the Sydney Harbor Bridge (75th anniversary book published in 2007), the Verrazano-Narrows and Brooklyn Bridges in New York City (former published in 2003, latter in 2013) and the Firth of Tay and Firth of Forth Bridges  in the United Kingdom (published in 1991), where several aspects were combined into one- technical, sociological and historical- and formulated in a way where there is an equal balance of photos and text that is simple to understand, and even the reader who is a non-native speaker of German can follow the progress on the bridge’s history from start to finish.

This explains the reason behind the decision of the City of Lübeck and the suburbs to replace the Herrenbrücke with the Herrentunnel, which Wiedemann found substantial amounts of information on the bridge’s problems which dated back to shortly after the opening in 1964. In a nutshell, despite its popularity among its residents within a 20-km radius and beyond, the bridge was nothing but trouble for the city council. Technical problems resulted in a bascule span to not work resulting in a complicated detour. Traffic jams being 5-10 km long. But what doomed the bridge were the amount of cracks and corrosion on the bascule spans as a result of gas emitted from passing ships, weather extremities and salt used on the roadways. Despite undergoing rehabilitation on the bridge in 1981 to strengthen the concrete approaches and sandblast the bascule spans, it only delayed the inevitable, which was decided in 2001 in favor of a tunnel, financed solely by the private sector. Yet the process came at a price: many residents were displaced as their houses at the site of the tunnel were razed. Businesses were bought out, including the ship-builder Flender-Wirft, which was in business for over a century until it was bought by private investors in 2002. Almost immediately after the purchase, diggers and wrecking balls brought down the almost 400 square facility, reducing the warehouses and manufacturing buildings to a pile of rubble. This company was near the site where the 1902 swing bridge was located.

After the Herrentunnel was completed in July 2005, the Herrenbrücke was given its last hurrah on 26 August, 2005 the same time as the opening of the tunnel. Afterwards, it was demolished starting with the removal of the basule spans, then the approach viaduct spans and lastly the abutments and control tower- a process that took over two years to complete. There is almost nothing left of the bridge except for a pair of green cranes that have been placed there.

The author’s title is the subject for debate, depending on how the reader looks at the information. The Letzte Klappe could mean the last span, meaning the bridge stood the test of time, despite all the problems it had, and it stood to the very end, although its life was cut too short. Yet it could mean the last word, meaning the decision was final to get rid of the bridge, even if it was at the expense of more houses and businesses. But from the author’s standpoint, it could also mean the last word in terms of memories of the bridge and the area that is all but a ghost town. Siems and Kucknitz were affected by the bridge in a way that it became a key point that was replaced by the tunnel. But the tunnel came at the price of memories of the bridge and the businesses that once served the communities. As Wiedemann mentioned, Siems is almost non-existent, whereas Kucknitz has not fared better because of the tunnel. But progress can also bring its advantages, and perhaps the tunnel was for the best for commuters and tourists alike. Still to this day, people are trying to cope with the change, which will take getting used to.

And eventually people will adapt to the change, but the memories of the bridge and the region that once existed will remain, even through this book, which has become a must-buy for locals and pontists wanting to know about the Herrenbrücke, its rise and fall, and its legacy that will forever be part of Lübeck’s history as well as that of Schleswig-Holstein’s and Germany’s.

Grade:  A+  (1,0)- for a well-detailed work on an iconic landmark that is comparable to other key bridges in Europe and the US. For engineers in Germany, a head-start for learning German! 🙂

The Bridges of Lübeck, Germany

Hub Pedestrian Bridge. Photo taken in October 2013

Lübeck, Germany. The home of marzipan. The home of Medieval and Baroque architecture. Situated just west of the historic boundaries that had once separated East and West Germany  but is today Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Pommerania, the city of 230,000 inhabitants, the second largest city in the state behind Kiel, is home to two universities, and is a magnet for tourists, as it is only 15 minutes by train south of the Baltic Sea on the Trave River. As it has three rivers and a pair of man-made canals in and around the historic Old Town (declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO), it is not surprising that the city has one of the most populous bridges in Germany, ranking up there with Hamburg, Berlin, Erfurt and Nuremberg, just to name a few.  As many as 230 bridges are known to exist in Lübeck as well as the neighboring beach community of Travemünde. 19 of them are located in and around the historic Old Town, spanning the Trave River as well as parts of the harbor and the Lübeck-Elbe Canal, which tangents the Old Town to the southeast before going south towards the Elbe at Lauenburg, 80 kilometers south of the city. That canal was built between 1895 and 1900 by Peter Rehder, whose bridge in Lübeck is named after him.

Just recently, I had an opportunity to visit these bridges as part of our tour through Lübeck with my wife and daughter. Many of these bridges can be seen via boat while others are within 5-10 minute walking distance inside the Old Town.  Many of these structures have survived the onslaught of World War II, where 30% of the center was destroyed by air raids. Others were built in a fashionable way 15 years ago.  In either case, this tour will take you through the old town and to each of the bridges and their histories. Photos of the bridges can be viewed by clicking on the name of the bridge.  One of the bridges, the Herrenbrücke, will be featured in a separate article, for a book was written on the double-bascule bridge, which has been replaced by a tunnel.

We’ll start with the Canal Crossings before going to the Trave River ones.

Lübeck-Elbe Canal:

Hub Bridges:  The first crossing along the Canal is located at the mouth leading into the Trave River. The bridge features three different crossings, each measuring between 42 and 45 meters in length. Two of them are hydraulic vertical lift spans, each featuring riveted Parker truss spans. The river side of the bridge used to serve rail traffic which ran along the river before it was discontinued in the 1980s. That crossing was later fixed in an elevated form and left there to allow ships to continue passing through. The center portion of the bridge is open to vehicular traffic and connects Unter der Trave with Hafenstrasse. This still functions as a hydraulic vertical lift bridge today and, as you can see in the video here, one can see the span be hoisted in 2-3 minutes’ time from the neighboring Burgtorbrücke. The pedestrian bridge on the canal side is a steel through arch bridge with portal and strut bracings similar to the now extant Fort Keogh Bridge in Montana (USA). That crossing is the only fixed span built when the three crossings were built between 1896 and 1898. Rehder and C. Hoppe were the contractors for the three crossings as they were built as part of the five-year project to canalize the city. Despite the railroad bridge being decommissioned, the crossings are clearly delegated to pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers to ensure their safety in crossing the structures. The tower located next to the three bridges serves as the control station for the center span. Its fancy Baroque design matches that of the architecture one can see in Lübeck.

Here are the links to the photos of the three crossings:

Railroad Through Truss

Vehicular Through Truss

Pedestrian Through Arch

 

Burgtorbrücke-  At 210 meters, the deck cantilever truss bridge using a Pratt truss design, is the only bridge in the city’s history to originally be built to span the Wakinitz River before the Canal was built in 1898. The original bridge was supposedly built in 1806 connecting the Old Town at Burgtor with the northern part of the city where Gustav Radbruch Platz is now located. The span was later replaced in 1898 with a cantilever suspension bridge that was three times the length of the original span and with the same height as the present-day structure. That bridge was replaced in 1910 with the present structure and since that day, has continued serving traffic on the east side of the city, connecting the Old Town with Travemünde and points to the north and east. The nearby Gustav Radbruch Platz is the eastern hub for all bus services serving the city and beyond.  The concrete lion statues, conceived by artist Fritz Behn in 1913, were placed at the northern portals of the bridge in 1931 and are a site not to miss, together with the concrete ornamental railings and the Burgtor Gate that is located right next to the bridge to the south.

 

Photo taken in October 2013

Klughafen Pedestrian Bridge- In an earlier article posted on the Chronicles (click here), we had a pop quiz to ask you when the bridge was built and whether this bridge is movable or not. The answer to these two questions took even the author by surprise, given the nature of how the boat tour guide told the story. While the trusses may have indicated that it was built 100 years ago and it was rehabilitated 15 years ago, it was actually built in 1994. And while the vertical beams holding the center span indicate a potential vertical lift bridge that would have been one of a kind, it only serves as a way of keeping the span from falling into the canal. Hence the comment that the bridge “was a decoration” serving pedestrians. Yet the almost 20-year old is beset by problems to be addressed by the city council, and that is vandalism by spray-painting. Instead of the pine green color it presents, the bridge is covered with various colors and shapes, some of which are deemed inappropriate. It will not be surprising if this pedestrian bridge receives a makeover in the coming years ahead.

 

Hüxtertorbrücke- No German city is not complete without this type of bridge: a steel arch bridge whose upper chord represents Pratt trusses curving from one end to another.  One can find this bridge in cities like Munich, Berlin, Leipzig and Cologne (the last city is famous for its Hollernzollern Bridge). Plus there were some that had existed in places, like Kiel, before they were razed in favor of more modern bridges. The Hüxtertor Bridge, named after the gate that was destroyed in World War II and is now dominated by the Discothek, is one of the smaller of these bridge types. It was built in 1927 and is a pony arch bearing a pale lime green color. It features typical 1920s style lighting supported by concrete towers. The bridge carries Hüxterdamm, connecting the city center with Falkenplatz and its adjacent Volkshochschule (Institute of Continuing Education).

 

Rehderbrücke:  Located next to Hüxtertorbrücke on Krähenstrasse, this bridge was named after the man who built the canal but was built in 1936. The bridge type is deck plate girder with cantilever features, and the black bridge’s typical feature are the rollers on the concrete piers. These not only support the bridge itself, but they serve as devices for expansion (during the warm months) and contraction (during the cold months).

Mühlentorbrücke:  Apart from the Burgtorbrücke, this bridge is one of the most ornamental bridges built of steel that had existed in Lübeck before World War II. The bridge was built at the time of the construction of the Canal (1899-1900) and featured finials on towers that included ornamental lighting on it. The bridge itself is unusual in three ways: 1. The towers are supported by prefabricated curved steel beams which is also hold the vertical suspenders that attach to the road. It is not an eyebar suspension bridge, like the Three Sister Bridges of Pittsburgh, for these steel encased cables are stiff providing more tension to the top part of the bridge. 2. The roadway supported by the steel beams is diagonal to the towers that are built parallel to the riverbank. With the exception of the Swinemünde Bridge at Gesundbrünnen Station in Berlin (which is cantilever), the Mühlentor Bridge is one of the rarest suspension bridges that has such a unique feature.  3. And while there is no horizontal beam supporting the towers, like other suspension bridges, this bridge also features cantilever deck trusses as the support for the decking, rendering the towers and encased cables as useless. Henceforth this bridge is unique in itself and will most likely be considered a national landmark if it has not happened already.

Possehlbrücke-  The last bridge along the canal is the Possehlbrücke. Built in 1956, the bridge is a prestressed, and pretensioned concrete girder bridge serving Possehlstrasse between the Old Town and points going southwards. The bridge represents a classic example of concrete bridges that took too much vehicular traffic resulting in cracks in the concrete superstructure and other structural issues. Albeit restricted to traffic up to 7.5 tons since 2012, the bridge’s days are definitely numbered. Earlier this month, the city council voted unanimously to demolish the structure in favor of a new structure. Construction will start in Spring 2014 and will take over a year to complete. Tourists travelling by boat will be seeing cranes and diggers at the site in the coming year instead of the picture the author took.

Trave River:

Wipper Bridge and the Cathedral.

Wipperbrücke- Spanning the city arm of the Trave River as the first crossing entering the river, this 1744 structure is the only one that is built using brick, the same material used on much of the infrastructure in Schleswig-Holstein (and much of Lübeck). The first crossing  was a pedestrian bridge built in 1644 before it was widened to accommodate horse and buggy and later automobiles. The bridge is located 200 meters south of the Lübeck Cathedral and can be photographed together when travelling by boat. An even closer shot of the church can be made after passing underneath the structure and going 100 meters further. Both are a must

Wall Bridge- Spanning the tributary connecting the Trave and the Stadtgraben carrying Possehlstrasse near the Wipperbrücke, this closed spandrel arch bridge was built in the 1920s but was widened to accommodate traffic. It serves as a connecting point between the Old Town and Possehlbrücke.

Dankwärtsbrücke- Spanning the Trave River at Dankwärtsgrube, the Dankwärtsbrücke is one of three pedestrian bridges spanning this river in Lübeck’s Old Town. It holds the title of being the only wooden bridge in the city, and one that has a lot of charm and is still being visited by thousands of people each day. The crossing is the second one in use and follows the original construction of the bridge built 200 years earlier but was replaced in 2004 due to structural issues.

Professor’s Bridge- Located between Dankwärtsbrücke and Holstentor, the pedestrian bridge was the work of Peterson and Pörksen, architects whose office is located in Lübeck and neighboring Hamburg. Built in 2007 as part of the plan to convert the Trave into a tourist boating port, the concrete bridge features a beam span supported by V-shaped piers which creates a trapezoidal shape with the point in the center of the bridge. This is important to allow boats to pass. The churches can be seen by this bridge.

Holstentorbrücke- Despite its length of 30 meters and being a single span closed spandrel concrete arch bridge, this bridge is perhaps the oldest that ever existed, located at the world renowned Holstentor Gate, the most used landmark of the city in terms of marzipan, paintings, souvenirs and the like. The bridge was first mentioned in 1216 when it was built as a wooden bridge. It was destroyed by flooding in 1320, and between that time and 1516, the bridge was rebuilt three times, with the third crossing being a stone arch bridge. The next bridge resembled the Rialto Bridge in Venice and lasted over 300 years before it was replaced in 1853 by a short span crossing that accomodated both rail and horse-traffic. While the rail line, originally connecting Lübeck Railway station and the harbor was discontinued in the early 1930s, vehicles continued using the bridge, hence the widening of the structure in 1934 to its current shape and form.

Beckerbrücke- Spanning the Untertrave, the pedestrian bridge connects the Lübeck Convention Center with the Beckergrube and provides a direct link to the center of the Old Town with its churches and shopping area. A person needs only seven minutes between St. Jacob’s Church and the Convention Center. The bridge was built in 2004 and features a beam span supported by a set of two-column piers.

Drehbrücke (Swing Bridge)Spanning the Untertrave at Willy-Brandt Allee between St. Lorenz and the Old Town, the bridge is one of only a couple swing bridges left in Schleswig-Holstein that is in operation. The bridge features a curved Howe pony truss, where there are three trusses, the center one of which separates two lanes of traffic. Built in 1892, it is the third oldest bridge left in operation and features a swing mechanism where a combination of rollers and hydraulics are used to swing the bridge open at a 60° angle, allowing ships and boats to pass through the crossing. A video shows the bridge closing after the boats pass through (click here).  Originally used for rail traffic connecting the train station and the harbor ports to the north via Hub Bridges, the bridge was converted to vehicular use in the 1980s and has operated for 121 years with little repairs done on it. The bridge is located next to a famous fish restaurant where a person can dine on some of the city’s specialties with a glass of wine and watch the ships pass through  as the bridge swings open and close.  The bridge is located next to another railroad bridge approximately 200 meters away. The Warren pony truss span with riveted connections spans part of the harbor and can be seen from the train station. It has been sitting abandoned for over a decade, awaiting reuse.

Eric Warburg Bridge- Losing the Herrenbrücke was a blow that the City of Lübeck did not want. Fortunately, the Eric Warburg Bridge was built at the time the 1964 two-span drawbridge was being demolished because of the tunnel. Yet this bridge had been in the planning phases for over a century, starting off with the plan by Peter Rehder to build it closer to the Old Town along the Lübeck-Elbe Canal. Yet the plan was tabled due to opposition from the citizens, as well as the two World Wars. Yet in 2004, the need to establish the connection between the Old Town and St. Gertrud justified the need for a single-leaf draw bridge, which took four years to build. The bridge features a blue-colored steel beam bridge with a center span that opens at regular intervals, controlled by the grey shaped control tower. A video shows you how the bridge works (click here).  Since the Herrenbrücke was removed in 2008, the bridge is the last crossing over the Trave before emptying into the Baltic Sea 10 kilometers to the north at Travemünde.

The bridge also has a history involving a prominent citizen. Eric Warburg, a banker from Hamburg, was of Jewish origin and contributed a great deal to saving many lives during World War II. After emigrating to the US in 1938, he served the American army and helped many people escape the tyranny of Adolf Hitler and his killing machine aimed at exterminating the Jews before and during the war. After Lübeck was heavily damaged during air raidson 29 March, 1942, in which 20% of the historic Old Town was destroyed, Warburg knew of the plan for another series of air raids that would eventually destroy the rest of the city and informed his cousin Carl Jacob Burckhardt, president of the International Red Cross about it. Together, the city was declared a neutral zone and a port where humanitarian aide would enter Germany. The plan was successful and not only was Lübeck spared, but it  was declared neutral governed by the Red Cross until the end of the war in 1945. For his work as well as his engagement in German-American relations, the Emil Warburg Prize was introduced in 1988 and given to people who performed great deeds for keeping the German-American relations sound. Among those receiving the prize were Richard von Weizsäcker (German president from 1984 to 1994), Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State under Richard Nixon) and former US President George HW Bush.

And as icing on the cake…

Puppenbrücke (EN: Bridge of Statues):

The last bridge on this tour is a must-see if you are a pontist or love history. The Bridge of Statues spans the Stadtgraben providing the lone important link between Holstentor and the Old Town to the east and Lübeck’s Railway Station and Bus Depot to the west. The bridge’s history dates back to the 1700s, when the bridge was built using wood. Yet the stone arch bridge was first constructed in 1773 and widened to accomodate traffic in 1907. The bridge features eight different sandstone sculptures on the railings, which includes the statue of the Woman of Peace, which is the answer to the question posed in an earlier article (click here). Each statue represents either a god or a different symbol, which was described further in detail by René and Peter van der Grodt and can be viewed here. These statues were made by Dietrich Jürgen Boy and P.H. Gnekow in 1774 and had been in place until 1985 when they were replaced by replicas and the originals were taken to the St. Anna’s Museum where they can be seen today but under protection from pollution. The bridge also features four different seals called reliefs, each located on one corner of the spandrel of the bridge, representing Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Those can be seen from boat or by climbing down to the shoreline of the Stadtgraben.

After touring through the Old Town and visiting each of the bridges mentioned here, which will take a day to complete when walking by foot and a couple hours by boat, one should not forget to try the marzipan products, including the marzipan pie provided by the family owned but world renowned Niederegger candy and restaurant, while at the same time, listen about the history of another bridge that used to exist in the city but a tunnel had taken its place. A book was written about this bridge and its history and in the second part on the series, we will have a look at the rise and fall of the Herrenbrücke, located north of Lübeck in the village of Siems, once an industrial port but now a faded memory.

 

Mystery Bridge 34: A Double-Leaf in California?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Miller

To start off this article, let’s begin by asking this question: do you know of bridges in the US like this one in the picture: a double-leaf bascule bridge that was built before or at the turn of the century (basically, up to 1900)? If so, where was it located, who built it, and when was it built?  While many double-leaf bascule bridges can be found in Europe with most of them being 100 years old and located in the Netherlands, Belgium and northern Germany, it is surprising to see that there were some bridges like this one that existed before the days of Ford and his Model T.

Kevin Miller brought this photo to the author’s attention and needs your help. A collection of vintage photos came to the Malibu Times (located in California outside Los Angeles) which included this bridge. Judging by the palm trees in the background, it appeared that this structure existed somewhere in southern California, northern Mexico or even Florida, in other words, the regions where one can most likely find palm trees. In addition to that, it may have been located in a coastal community that once thrived in fishing and/or shipping and used to have a canal (or even a series of canals) that went through the community. Yet as the double-leaf is one of the key landmarks that is typically Dutch, it would mean that the coastal community was predominately Dutch, which would contradict the trend that was set forth in the history of Dutch immigration in the US. Up until 1945, the majority of Dutch settlements were located in the Midwest and northeastern parts of the USA, including Pella, Iowa, which has a double-leaf bridge and Dutch houses of its own. After World War II, the number of Dutch immigrants to California and the coastal areas reaching as far as Alaska skyrocketed resulting in over 200,000 of them living in tight quarters either within a bigger city or a small community. In Los Angeles alone, over 100,000 people with Dutch and Indo-dutch background reside there. Yet because of trade with Indonesia prior to 1930, it is likely that a handful of Dutch communities may have been established but most likely in an area stretching from Santa Ynez down to the Mexican state of Baja California. Yet with its connections with trading partners in the Caribbean at the same time, combined with previous settlements in the New England states, an average of 5-10% of Dutchmen also have resided in Florida, which means that some communities may have been established at the same time as in California. This means that the double-leaf bridge in this picture may have belonged to a Dutch community.

Another clue is the lettering on the left building in the background. If looking more closely, one can see some Spanish and Dutch names resembling the likes of  Isdero Gertrain, although it does appear fuzzy. If there were any Spanish connections, then it is most likely that the double-leaf was located in a Dutch community either in southern California or northern Baja California in Mexico. But some closer examinations may be needed to confirm this.

As this picture may have been taken at the same time as those in the collection- meaning most likely in the 19th century and definitely before the creation of the Malibu Times in 1946, there are plenty of questions that need to be answered about this double-leaf, namely:

1. Where was this bridge located? Was it in a Dutch community or one that used to be predominately Dutch?

2. When did this bridge exist- and especially, when was this photo taken?

3. Given the design of the bridge’s towers, which appears to be ornamental made of iron, similar to a bridge in northern Germany, who designed the bridge? 

The bridge was a pedestrian bridge that was approximately 80-110 feet total in length with a width clearance of about 40-50 feet allowing small ships to pass. Given the close proximity of the buildings, the canal must have been 40 feet wide at the most.

Any information would be much appreciated. Put them in the comment section as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook, twitter and LinkedIn pages. It will also be posted in the Malibu Times facebook page in case you wish to post some facts there.  You can also contact Kevin Miller at Kevin.Miller3@pepperdine.edu.

Also useful is to know of other double leaf bridges in the US that existed prior to 1900. If you know of some, you are free to comment here in the Comment page or contact the Chronicles via e-mail at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.

Curious about this bridge and to know about the double leaves in the US? The Chronicles will keep you posted on this unique mystery bridge.