The Westward Expansion was one of the greatest developments in American History. From 1865 until the end of World War I in 1918, millions of miles of roads and railroads were built west of the Mississippi River. And with that came bridges, big or small, that crossed whatever ravine was in the way. Hundreds of bridge building companies were established between 1865 and 1910 and while half of them either folded or merged with other bridge building firms, others remained in the business and with enough capital and a set of minds that were strong-willed and innovative, they succeeded in building unique crossings and competing with the bigger and more powerful conglomerates. Some of the companies eventually continued their business well into the 20th Century.
In the case of Stupp Brothers, they have been building bridges and other forms of artwork for 165 years and counting. Many people don’t know much about Stupp Brothers except when you find historic truss bridges with the Stupp plaques on them. Most of these bridges can be found in Missouri but this was because Stupp has its headquarters in St. Louis. When looking at the history of bridge building, some of the unique crossings have been built by Stupp. Aside from the Jefferson City Bridges, Stupp built the Bird’s Nest Bridge in Crawford County, Broadway Bridge in Kansas City, the Martin Luther Bridge in St. Louis, and the Route 66 Meramec River Bridge west of St. Louis- all of which still exist to this day.
More closely is the history of the Stupp Brothers Bridge Company itself, for its founder, originated from Germany in what is now North Rhine-Westphalia. And this is where the story starts. I did some research on the company and interviewed Judith Stupp, wife of the current president, John Stupp, in 2017 as efforts were being taken to find funding to restore the Meramec Bridge. While the role of Stupp with that bridge will be discussed later due to changes in developments to date, here’s what we learned about the bridge company, the Stupp family and 165 years of engineering success.
1. Who were the founders of the bridge company?
Technically, the bridge business was founded by George, Peter and Julius Stupp, the sons of Johann Stupp, but the story begins with Johann. Johann Stupp was born in 1827 in Cologne (Köln), Germany- Prussia at that time. He was trained as a metal smith and during his wanderberuf he developed friendships with several other young wanderers.
Economic conditions convinced some of these friends to immigrate to the US. Initially Johann resisted, but in 1854 he chose to join his friends in St Louis, Missouri. The influx of Germans was so great that by 1860, of the 160,783 citizens of St Louis, 50,510 were German-born.
By 1856 Johann was married and had started his own business fabricating small machine parts and doing some ornamental iron work. He brought his brother Peter to St Louis to work as foreman at J. Stupp and Bros., Blacksmiths.
2. What role did Stupp Brothers play in the Civil War, both regarding the bridge building business as well as in their private lives?
Though there is no documentation to prove it, there is a family conviction that Johann’s shop made iron plates for the fleet of seven ironclad gunboats built by John B. Eads to support the union effort to take control of the Mississippi and its tributaries. Eads was under intense pressure to produce the fleet in 90 days, so it seems likely that a shop like Johann’s would have been involved in the effort. Johann hadproduced iron plates for barges while still in Germany. Johann served in the “Home Guard” during the Civil War. This group was instrumental in preventing Missouri from seceding from the union.
By 1867 the firm was being advertised as the South St. Louis Iron Works. They fabricated fire escapes, railings and various ornamental items. In the late 1860’s the firm received a sub-contract to fabricate the gates at the newly created Lafayette Park. It was a triumph for the shop. Of the 32 gates Johann created 30 remain standing. Johann would concentrate on ornamental iron gates and fencing for the rest of his time in the business. Johann was a superb craftsman, meticulous and an artist in his trade. He died in 1915 at the age of 88.
By 1873 all three of Johann’s teenaged sons worked in the business. George was office manager, Peter was assistant pattern-maker and Julius was a bolt cutter. That same year saw the credit crisis known as The Panic of 1873. Johann had borrowed $3000 from an unscrupulous lender and, unable to pay the loan when called, lost the business. As a result of this experience no doubt, George Stupp had enrolled in business classes. In 1878 George formed the George Stupp South St. Louis Ornamental Zinc and Iron works. When Peter and Julius came of age a partnership was formed and the name was changed to Stupp Bros. With George in charge the company began to move from ornamental to structural work. One of the firms earliest orders was from the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.
3. How did Stupp play a role in the Westward Expension?
The 1880’s was an ideal time for the newly formed company. St. Louis was growing and prospering, it was fourth among American cities in gross value of manufactures and fifth in capital invested in manufacturing. When Stupp built its first bridge in around 1886, it was one of five bridge companies in St. Louis.
In December of 1890, the brothers incorporated, changing the firm’s name to Stupp Bros.
Bridge and Iron Company. America was becoming an industrial giant, Americans were pouring into the frontier, cities like Omaha, Dallas, Denver and San Francisco had emerged from frontier outposts. The networks of roads and rails in the east were improved and expanded, while new lines pushed westward creating and feeding new markets for manufactured materials. Buoyed by the expanding market, in 1893 the brothers expanded their plant by adding a second story to house an office and drafting room.
4. How did the bridge building expand after the Civil War? How many branch offices did it have andwhich ones still exist today?
In the early 1900-1920’s there were offices in Iowa City, Iowa, Kansas City, Missouri and downtown St Louis. Today manufacturing is done in Bowling Green, KY with the sales office at the company location in St Louis where has been since 1902.
5. While as many as 28 bridge companies merged to become the American Bridge Company in 1901(including the Wrought Iron Bridge Company), Stupp didn‘t engage in this venture and continued to build bridges in the face of competition. How did the company achieve that successfully?
Independent minded. It is unknown whether or not they were ever approached about a merger. The company had the capital to remain independent.
6. What major projects has the bridge company been involved with since 1900? Bridge examples included.
Stupp’s contract records identify nearly 20,000 projects. Bridges make up a significant portion of them though not the majority of them. Some notable projects include:
Hurricane Deck at Lake of the Ozarks, MO (1936 Prize Bridge winner)
George P. Coleman Bridge over the York River, VA (Multiple swing spans-1990’s)
Randolph Street Bascule Bridge Chicago 1970’s
Ohio River Bridge Renovations Louisville, KY 2014-2016 (20,000 tons)
Truss Bridges over the Missouri River at Washington, Herman, Chesterfield, St. Charles, Jefferson City, Miami for the state of Missouri 1940s to 1960’s
Choteau Bridge replacement at Kansas City MO 2001
7. Who is in charge of the company today and what kinds of bridges are being built today in comparison with 100 years or even 150 years ago?
John Stupp is the president of the company and R. Philip Stupp, Jr. Is our executive vice president. They are cousins and great-great grandsons of Johann. Three members of the sixth generation are currently working for the company.
Stupp began building bridges in the 1880s. Most of the bridges Stupp fabricated in this time frame were less than 100 foot in individual span lengths. The majority of the bridges were truss bridges. The vertical elements of truss bridges are top chords, bottom chords, vertical and diagonal struts. These components form panels and the completed panels span the crossing. Horizontal members tie the two trusses together and support the roadway. Thru trusses, deck trusses, and pony trusses are three types of bridges that made up the majority of our contracts during the period. Railroad bridges and highway bridges were our primary bridge products.
In 1902 Stupp moved to a much larger plant and began building much larger structures (longer spans require larger structures) Trusses remained a dominant bridge type for another 100 years. Our expanded capabilities allowed us to build arch bridges, long span railroad bridges, and moveable bridges. Categories of moveable bridges include bascule, swing span, and lift. Rolled beams (wide flange) were introduced by Carnegie Steel and then mass marketed by Bethlehem Steel around the turn of the century. Their use greatly reduced the cost of short span bridges and these are known as rolled beam bridges.
Plate girder bridges became cost effective and widely used after welding was perfected in the 1950’s. Prior to then riveting plates together with angles was the preferred method. Today plate girder bridges make up over 80% of the steel bridge market. Plate girder bridges are the only bridge type that Stupp manufacturers since 1999.
To learn more about Stupp Brothers, click onto the link here and read more about it.
COLOGNE, GERMANY- March 7, 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the German-speaking children’s show „Die Sendung mit der Maus“ (in English: Mouse TV), which is officially presented as „Lach- und Sachgeschichte“ (in English: Stories for Laughing and Learning). On this day in 1971, the first episode of the Mouse was introduced on public TV through the West-German channel WDR, located in the city of Cologne.
Featuring the Orange Mouse, the TV show runs along the same pattern as our American counterpart, Sesame Street, which debuted two years earlier. Unlike the Muppet characters, like Big Bird, Kermit, Elmo, the Count and the Cookie Monster, who take up most oft he show’s time through conversation and lessons, the Mouse features only three characters- the Mouse himself, the Blue Elephant and the Yellow Duck, yet the show features various cartoon clips from other shows but half the time is spent showing the viewers how things are built and how certain devices work- in live time. Like in Sesame Street, the Mouse is televised in many languages and can be seen even on American TV.
The Mouse has garnered dozens of awards, some of which have gone to two of the moderators who have been with the mouse for as long as the show: Armin Maiwald and Christoph Bienmann. While we’re talking about how things are being built in live time, I stumbled across some films that featured the bridge, while I was finding some older series to be presented in another commentary in my other column, the Flensburg Files. Some were quite funny and even if they are over 30 years old, some people will get a laugh out of them. Yet there are some that educational and quite useful for everyone to watch. We’re going to show the Chronicles‘ greatest bridge hits that were presented by the Mouse over the years. While the target language is German, the videos presented here speak more volumes than what is spoken in any language. 🙂
In the first video shown above, there are the many attempts of Christoph trying to cross the river All of the attempts were worth the laughs. Yet given the fact he was an exchange student in the United States prior to joining the Mouse in 1972, he added some American flair to the film, which was released in 1982.
The next bridge video was the first to show the actual bridge building process. This two-part series, released in 1994 takes you through a step-by-step process from planning to the actual building of the viaduct that now spans a road, river and railroad tracks.
Then there’s the bridge replacement aspect with a focus on replacing the motorway bridge in Leverkusen. Started in 2014, the series is ongoing and there will be much more to come as the project progresses, for the bridge replacement is expected to take a decade to complete.
And lastly, we have the newest among the bunch, the slide-in replacement of a railroad bridge near Cologne and the process that took a full weekend to complete, yet the filming was enough for one episode.
Especially in the past decade, the videos on building bridges have become more popular for people of all ages for much of the infrastructure is getting older and becoming unable to handle today’s traffic in terms of volume and weight. Nevertheless, they are interesting to watch as each structure is inspected and when it is concluded that replacement is inevitable, the planning, design and construction is carried out.
Even if one is not interested in bridges, the Mouse presents virtually every aspect of manufacturing or making the basics for every day life with the purpose of making it entertaining but most importantly, educational. I started watching the Mouse when my daughter was born in 2008 and since then, it has become a cornerstone to our Sunday ritual: Mouse TV with pancakes for breakfast, all on the sofa in the living room, something that many of us in Germany enjoy doing on a Sunday morning when the show is televised on TV, either on ARD or KIKA.
And therefore, the bridge community and this columnist of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to wish the Mouse a happy golden birthday and many thanks to Armin, Christoph and crew many thanks for making the show a „bridge building“ experience for all ages, especially those who wish to become engineers in the future.
Have you ever wondered how bridges were built over a century ago? What types of tools and manpower were used to complete the crossing? And most of all, how workers took pride in their completed artwork spanning a major river?
While we’ve advanced much further in our technologies in making fancier bridges, many of the civil engineers and bridge lovers have probably come across a film clip similar to this one above. It’s basically a clip featuring workers putting together a major crossing made of steel. It’s a silent film that was produced over a century ago and the construction of the bridge resembled a boy putting a building together- first with an Erector set when it was introduced at the beginning of the 20th Century, then later with other construction sets which require the use of steel parts, nuts and bolts and the like, just to produce a prized work. Every engineering and bridge building great started off small with an Erector set.
Nowadays, we put our bridges together with Lego blocks, and even though the artwork looks nice, it takes away much of the fun it would be needed just to screw something together. With Legoes come the change in technological ways of building a bridge. The question is how.
Take a look at this video and ask yourselves the following questions:
How were bridges built together then in comparison with today?
What technologies existed between then and now?
How much time do you think it took to build a bridge like in the clip? How is that in today’s world?
Do you think modern bridges or “oldtimer” bridges are easier to build? What about safer?
If there was an opportunity to bring back old technological tactics that worked for bridge building, what would it be and why?
What lessons could we learn in bridge building from this clip?
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.
Go Fund Me campaign to raise $15,000 to hire an independent contractor to look at options to restore the 1932 historic truss bridge
BRUNSWICK & TOPSHAM, MAINE- Conflicts between the Maine Department of Transportation on one end and locals from both Brunswick and Topsham as well as preservation officials have reached new heights for recent public meetings regarding the future of the three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge have produced intensive strife, and locals have turned to other alternatives to ensure the 1932 product of Boston Bridge Works remains in place for years to come.
Since 30 March, the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Memorial Bridge has undertaken a campaign to raise funds for an independent contractor to conduct a structural survey and present an objective alternative to replacing the historic bridge- favoring the preservation and restoration of the structure. The contractor has had experience in restoring bridges of this caliber in the New England states and East Coast, and the cost for such an engineering study is estimated to be $15,000. To donate to the project, please click onto the link here: https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-frank-j-wood-bridge
Every single dollar will help a great deal for the project. Already at the time of this posting, over half of the funds have been raised. Your help will ensure the other half will be raised, and the counterarguments to MaineDOT’s claim of the bridge being at the end of its useful life be presented as objectively and professionally as possible.
During the last meeting, which spawned this fund-raising effort, officials from MaineDOT presented proposals for replacing the historic bridge using studies conducted by a bridge engineering firm that had no experience in restoring historic bridges. All the proposals presented were rejected flatly by residents and officials from the National Advisory on the Council for Historic Preservation and Maine Preservation, both of whom had requested the DOT to look at the cost for restoring the historic bridge, but was met with refusal. According to members of the Friends committee as well as locals, the meeting between both sides produced biased results and little room to comment on the alternatives to replacing the bridge, angering locals and proponents of restoring the truss bridge to a point where the committee has decided to forego the findings of the DOT and embark on this daring measure. Public sentiment for the bridge is very strong for reasons that restoring the bridge is cost-efficient and presents the two communities and their historic mills and wetlands with a sense of historic pride and heritage. A youtube video of the bridge and the two communities is an excellent example of the willingness to fight to keep the bridge:
Furthermore, at 30 feet wide, the bridge can hold two lanes of vehicular traffic plus an additional lane for bikes and pedestrians, even though a pedestrian portion practically exists on the truss bridge.
The battle for the objective truth is getting intense and it will set the precedent for any future preservation plans for other historic bridges in the region, nationwide and beyond. As mentioned in an interview with the Chronicles last year (click here for details) , the communities will even take the legal path if MaineDOT continues to refuse to listen to the needs of the residents affected by the bridge controversy and shove its new bridge down their throats against their will. Last month’s meeting has taken this matter one step closer to the danger zone. Whether this independent study on the future of the historic bridge, which especially includes alternatives to replacing the bridge that still has years of life left, will defuse the conflict depends solely on the willingness of both sides to come away with a proposal that will satisfy everyone.
The Chronicles will continue to monitor the latest developments on the bridge. In the meantime, if you have a dime to help, take a couple minutes of your time and do the right thing. Donate to save the bridge.
Under a pile of rubble, there is always a jewel, no matter who or what it is or where it came from. Located 16 kilometers south of Glauchau, along the Mulde River, the city of Zwickau may look like an ordinary community, whose architecture mostly comes from the Cold War. This includes high-rise buildings, mining facilities, old factories and even bridges built using scarce materials possible but only lasting 40 years. In fact, a newspaper report from a local newspaper in Chemnitz revealed as many as 37 bridges in the district of 480,000 inhabitants (of which the city itself has 104,000 residents) that are in dire need of repair or replacement. Most of them had exceeded their expected lifespan by 20 years and are hanging by a thread because of imposed weight limits designed to keep trucks, tractors and busses off of them.
But underneath the doom and gloom of a bygone era, there are some jewels to find. Zwickauprides itself on the automobile industry, where the beloved Trabant automobile was built- now the company belongs to Volkswagen. Audi was founded in this community in 1904. The world’s first known and popular automobile racing union was created five years later. It also has an international school (Saxony International in Reinsdorf) and a college of science and technology (Westsächsisch Hochschule), making the city a multicultural university town. It has a bridge building firm that has existed since 1854 and still has its base in the city.
And when there is a bridge builder in the community, there will always be bridges, especially given its proximity to the river!
The town was first mentioned in 1118 when the Slavs settled there, yet a half dozen bridges, mostly covered wooden ones were built to connect it with other villages by the 1500s. By the late 1800s, more than 40 bridges crossed the Mulde or surrounded the old town center. Today, if one subtracts the crossings carrying pipelines, only a quarter of the bridges exist in Zwickau, all are along the Mulde. And of these 10 known crossings, counting the Zellstoff Bridge, four of them are over 70 years old. Two of them however have received national accolades because of their unusual designs. They include the Paradiesbrücke- the only known bridge in Germany and the western hemisphere that has the cantilever pony truss design- and the 500-year old Röhrensteg- the only known covered bridge with multiple designs and functions, plus the oldest in Saxony. Both of these centerpieces will be profiled together with nine other structures that will include a couple near Wilkau-Hasslau(to the south) and a couple near Schlunzig (to the north). All of them were built before 1990, but they will present not only the historical aspects of the bridges, but also address the issues involving their ability to carry traffic. A gallery of pictures are enclosed for each bridge I stopped at during the tour in September.
Picking up where I left off in Glauchau, we’ll start the tour going upriver and through the prized automobile and infrastructural community, starting off with our first bridge:
Built in 1954 replacing a wooden bridge destroyed in a flood, the Schlunzig Bridge may be a typical bland concrete beam bridge with little or no value, even if the structure is equipped with the ever so quickly disappearing set of street lighting from the bygone era. Yet its significance resembles two sides of a coin. On the one side, it is a typical East German Bridge, constructed using scarce materials that were prescribed by the Communist government- similar to the Wave at Wernersdorf (for more, see the tour guide on Glauchau’s bridges). Even the lighting originated from that era, which was considered too industrial for the region that is mostly oriented towards agriculture and nature. On the flip side, the bridge is a poster boy for the structural woes the region (and much of Germany) has been dealing with: a run-down structure that is unable to withstand increasing traffic or even weather extremities. As a result, a new bridge was approved by the District of Zwickau in 2016 and it took three years until this product was completed in 2020:
But the replacement plan came with strings attached as issues with the shipment of cables combined with weather extremities delayed the project by up to 12 months. Nevertheless, the cable stayed bridge was opened to traffic in June 2020, while the old span was removed, its remains used for riprap. For the town of Schlunzig, a win-win situation for it has an iconic cable-stayed bridge and it provides better service to the Volkswagen Company, located just west of town.
Fast Fact: The bridge was in fact built in 1959 replacing an earlier span that had been built 21 years earlier but was destroyed in the war. Ironically, the 1938 span replaced an iron truss span that was built in 1878, replacing a wooden covered bridge from 1547. No pictures, postcards and drawings exist at this time, but if you have any that you wish to add please contact the Chronicles.
Entering Zwickau’s city limits, we have the Zellstoff Bridge on the left. Spanning the Mulde River, this bridge features one of the most unusual through truss spans in the region. It’s span consists of a Warren through truss with riveted connections. The portal bracings are skewed at a 45° angle and feature a V-laced form (outer portal) and an I-beam form with heel bracings (inner portal). The struts and vertical beams are both V-laced, as well with the diagonal beams being H-framed. The approach spans feature five spans of a concrete cantilever design. A gallery above will give you a description of what the bridge looks like. Also interesting is a narrow chimney at the left side of the west portal. This may be part of a mechanism that harnessed or even supported electricity, especially as many electrical lines went over this bridge. The bridge served a rail line connecting an automobile factory and possibly an area where mining had existed and therefore, played a key role in Zwickau’s industrial history. But more research on the mining area in Zwickau and in particular, the mini-chimney is needed to help uncover the secrets to the bridge and its surrounding area. The bridge was abandoned after 1990 and there was a plan to remove the structure shortly afterwards. However, thanks to opposition to the plan by residents and preservationists, the decision was scrapped in 2007, and today, the bridge serves as a bike trail between the city and the area where mining had existed. The overgrowth has dominated the bridge and the trail going east, but people can still use them to see what the mining area had looked like before the Fall of the Wall. Despite its age, many people still love this bridge, especially as I met some people while filming it, who all said this one word: “Historique.” That I’m not in a position to disagree with you on. The interest in the Zellstoff Bridge contributed to the City of Zwickau’s successful project in renewing the bridge flooring in early 2018. Since that time, more and more people are using the bridge and even getting some good shots with the camera. A blessing for bridge preservationists, historians and locals alike. 🙂
Here’s a Youtube video on this bridge:
Note: If you know more about this bridge in terms of its history and historic significance to the region, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles. The information will be added to the tour guide.
The first vehicular crossing over the Zwickau Mulde when entering Zwickau is located in the northernmost suburb, Pölbitz. Located at Pölbitzer Strasse, west of B-93, this bridge connects Pölbitz with Eckersbach and provides direct access to the nearest town of Crimmitschau. While records indicated the first wooden bridge having been built 1511, the bridge was replaced with a four-span concrete Luten arch bridge in 1914, all with closed spandrels. The bridge withstood years of abuse as a result of flooding, war and lastly, neglect because of the lack of resources and know-how during the Communist era. The straw that broke the camel’s back came with the Great Flood of 2002, which caused extensive damage to the bridge, especially the arches. The city council reacted with a plan to replace the entire structure with a concrete cantilever span, similar to the picture above. The bridge was replaced in 2005-06 with the current structure, which includes some finials and a memorial on the east end of the bridge. A video showing the events involving the Pölbitz Bridge before and after the replacement can be seen below. It includes interviews with those involved in the replacement project and commentary from the anchor, a local who obviously forgot about the arch bridge except for its destitute state.
Spanning the Zwickau Mulde at Kolpingstrasse and highway B-175 , this three-span structure features a concrete deck cantilever design. The bridge is one of the heavily travelled bridges in Zwickau for the crossing provides traffic in and around Zwickau as well as points to the west and north. The current structure was built in 1955 replacing a wooden combination trestle and Queenpost through truss structure that was built in 1898 under the name Socialist Bridge. The bridge was replaced with the current structure in 1955 but not before the floods a year earlier caused significant damage to the new bridge under construction as well as the truss bridge itself. Between 1898 and 1990, when the name was changed to Echersbach Bridge, the bridge was named with a socialist flair which started with that before changing to the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Bridge. Given its age and its wear and tear because of weather extremities and congestion, the bridge has seen better days, and it appears that in the coming years with the increase in traffic, replacement may have to be considered.
Only 150 meters north of the bridge is a pipeline bridge, built using steel plate girders. Built in the 1980s, the bridge carried hot water to Zwickau from sources to the east of the city. Abandoned for a decade, the bridge was removed in 2017 not only for liability reasons, but the residents nearby did not want to see an eyesore obstructing the view of the Mulde River valley.
The Maritius Bridge is the first of two Mulde River bridges in Zwickau that carry the major highway B93 going south. The steel structure features two bridges: One built in 1992 to accomodate street car service going south and a parallel one built in 1994 to accomodate vehicular traffic. Both structures replaced the Bierbrücke that was built where the present-day Maritius Brewery is located. The structure was first mentioned in 1859 and was built of wood, even though it is unclear whether it was a covered bridge or another truss structure. Furthermore, we don’t know how long the bridge had existed at that time. After having been destroyed by ice and flooding multiple times, an iron structure was built in 1861. According to some of the postcards, the bridge featured a Town Lattice truss bridge and had three spans. Due to structural concerns, the bridge was closed in the 1970s. It was rehabilitated in 1975 to accomodate pedestrians and cyclists by replacing the truss spans with steel beam and was raised a meter to allow for free flowing waters of the Zwickau Mulde. Inspite of this, the partial permanent closure of the Bierbrücke resulted in a complicated detour through other parts of Zwickau where massive traffic had not been seen on residential streets.
Because of lack of funding due to the economic conditions in East Germany during that time, reconstruction was only possible after the two Germanys were reunited. Come 1992, the first of two bridges were built to provide street car service to Eckersbach from the city center. By that time, the old Bierbrücke had vanished into history. Two lears later, as part of the B-93 expressway project, the second bridge was built for traffic. Today’s Maritius Bridge is the gateway to Zwickau from neighboring Glauchau and points to the north along the expressway connecting the city with Leipzig.
Paradise Bridge (Paradiesbrücke):
Germany was once known as a place filled with ornamental bridges built using unusual designs. Despite 90% of them being destroyed during the Third Reich and through the bombings in World War II, there are still some diamonds in the field that if found are worth researching and given its rightful honor. The Paradise Bridge, located at Nicolai and Reinsdorfer Strassen near the Nicolaischule and Eberts Palace is one of those bridges that deserves international accolades, as well as its neighbor upstream, the Röhrensteg. Having been considered a cultural heritage site (Kultutdenkmal) by both the East German government and later by the State of Saxony since 1980, here are some interesting facts worth noting about this bridge:
2. The bridge was built in 1900 by a bridge-building firm Beuchelt & Company in Grünberg in Schlesia (now part of Poland), replacing a covered bridge, which was one of over 30 that were built in Zwickau. The predecessor was built in 1694 by Johann Georg Findeisen from Schellenberg at a cost of 200 Taler. The covered bridge was one of the fanciest of the dozen built in Zwickau and it had come in response to multiple previous crossings that had been built but had survived briefly as they had been destroyed by ice jams, flooding and war. The Findeisen span had been in service for 306 years before it was decomissioned and dismantled in favor of the cantilever truss bridge.
3. The structure itself is 120 meters long, its tower is in the middle of the Mulde River. The width is 15 meters, counting the trusses. Since 1979 and inspite the restoration work in 2003, the bridge has been serving cyclist and pedestrian traffic, carrying a bike trail connecting Zwickau’s City Centre with Reinsdorf, located four kilometers to the east.
Its replacement structure is found 200 meters west of the bridge at Dr. Friedrichs Ring (Hwy. 173). That bridge, known as the Adolf Hennecke Bridge and later from 1990 onwards as the Glück-Auf-Brücke, was built in 1979 and connects Zwickau with Chemnitz to the southeast. That bridge is three times as long and twice as wide as the Paradiesbrücke, spanning the river, Highway B-93, the Mulde Bike Trail and Reinsdorfer Strasse.
4. When the bridge was renovated in 2003, the towers were crowned with finials resembling the Matthäus Kirche (St. Matthew’s Church) which was located 400 meters east of the entrance. Additional decorations on the trusses and ornamental lamps were also added making the bridge more attractive to tourists and passers-by.
5. The bridge is located near the site where a former mine and bridge building company used to be located. A memorial site with a miner resting with a beer in the hand can be seen 100 meters northeast of the city side of the entrance. It is also located near the Ebert Palace, whose finial towers can be seen above the trees at the bridge’s east entrance.
6. The bridge was the platform for several historical events affecting Zwickau and beyond. For instance, the name Paradies stammed from Martin Luther’s visit in Zwickau, where he crossed the bridge in rage after a row with the priests before entering a nearby house and declared: “Thank God I found this house. Here is my paradise.” The first was an open-air festival in 1847, featuring a concert by musicians Robert Schumann and his wife, Clara. For two weeks after the end of World War II, the bridge served as a temporary border crossing for American and Soviet troops. That ended in July 1945. And in 1956, a film production in Zwickau included a couple scenes on the bridge. The restoration of the bridge in 2002/03 came after floodwaters almost knocked the bridge off its piers. And most recently, an open-air cafe used to be on the bridge, which happened in 2017.
Any more reasons for listing this bridge on the UNESCO site in comparison with the nays? Check out this youtube video on this bridge:
Pöhlau Railroad Bridge:
Located near the site of the International Trabant Museum, this bridge appears to be one of the newer truss bridges built no earlier than 25 years ago. While its light brown color makes it look rusty in appearance, its “molded” connections is typical for today’s truss bridges. The Warren through truss bridge with beam portals and Lattice truss overhead bracings used to serve a rail line connecting Pöhlau and Zwickau Central Station. The bridge and the line are now abandoned. Given its age and modern appearance, chances are this bridge will be reused at some point- either as a crossing for cyclists in its place, a street car crossing going south or a railroad crossing at a new location. Time will tell what the City of Zwickau will do with this structure.
Like the Paradiesbrücke, the Röhrensteg (translated as the Bridge of Pipes) is another key attraction for Zwickau which should receive international recognition for its design and function. The bridge’s history dates back over 500 years to 1535, when the bridge was first built. At that time, the people in Zwickau needed water for their personal and commercial use. Because the water of the Mulde was dirty and not drinkable, the only source of clean drinking water to be found was at a pond near Reinsdorf- three kilometers away from the bridge. Henceforth, workers created man-powered pumping stations and pipelines made of hard wood from oak trees. The trees were cut down, and after stripping the bark and outer layers, a hole with a diameter of 30 centemeters was dug out by hand, but not before having cut the wood into sections and then connecting them once the hole was “drilled.” The wooden pipeline then transported water down the hill and across this bridge before being distributed throughout the city. A section of this wooden pipeline can still be seen on the bridge, where the overhead beams are still supporting it, providing proof that this practice once existed. A total of at least 17 wooden pipelines had been built for the city of Zwickau to provide drinking water for the community, four fountains where the wooden pipes were connected dating back to the 1700s have been preserved as exhibits at the city center to show this unique engineering feat. This pipeline system was later replaced with more modern systems in the early 20th century, but the bridge itself has withstood the test of time and mother nature. Despite having had substantial damage during the flood of 1790, the Röhrensteg was rebuilt and has retained its original form ever since. The bridge has survived numerous floods and other natural disasters, even after new pier casings were installed in 1940 as part of the project to dredge the Mulde River.
In terms of its structure, the Röhrensteg is the only truss bridge (wooden or metal) to have two different designs and two different portals. The bridge features a three-span Queenpost truss design on the western side and a subdivided Warren truss on the eastern side. A-frame portal bracing is found on the city side, X-frame lattice with heel bracings on the Reinsdorf side. Endposts with 45° angles can be found at each portal; together with the wooden siding lining up between the bridge and the abutment, this makes the Röhrensteg one of the most unusual covered bridges to have ever been built. Roofing is of hip style with an angle of 45°, which is similar to the covered bridges found in Switzerland. The bridge serves a bike trail connecting Zwickau’s southern part and Reinsdorf via Oberhohnsdorf, serving as a spur to the Mulde Bike trail that careens along the river.
Despite its unusual design and multi-functionality, the bridge is showing its age, and therefore needed to be rehabilitated. This work was completed during three quarters of 2018, having been reopened to traffic in January 2019. Details can be found here. Prior to the rehabilitation, new approach spans on the Reinsdorf side and the pier casing had been built, no extensive work has been done on the bridge prior to its extensive work. More on the work can be found here.
A youtube video on the Röhrensteg takes you across the bridge and to the pipes found in the superstructure itself. Check it out:
Röhrensteg after its reopening in 2019:
Schedewitz Bridges (New Schedewitz Bridge and Bockwaer Brücke):
Located in the suburb bearing the bridge’s name, the next two bridges are located only 200 meters from each other, each spanning the Mulde. The older bridge is a two-span Warren deck truss without verticals but with stone arch approach spans. Built in 1890, this bridge used to connect the suburbs of Schedewitz and Bockwa, hence it was known by locals as the Bockwaer Brücke. Its predecessors consisted of a multiple-span stone arch bridge that was built in 1842. The northern two spans of this bridge were preserved and used as approach spans for the Warren truss spans. Yet the first crossing was a covered bridge, which was built in 1661. The bridge used to serve a key route along the Silver Road, connecting Zwickau with Schneeberg via Wiesenburg. Much of that route has been taken over by the federal highway B-93. Furthermore, the bridge used to have a streetcar route and a two-lane vehicular crossing.
Because of flood damage in 1954, contract was let to the local bridge building firm VEB Brückenbauwerk Zwickau in 1956 to build its replacement span, located 200 meters downstream at the site where the crossing exists today. The new span features a three-span concrete cantilever span, with a length of 70 meters, accommodating four-lanes of traffic plus sidewalks. Construction lasted two years due to difficulties digging through the steep cliffs, requiring the use of explosives before the cliffs were dug out. The road was then laid out, which included a side road that would connect with the main route from the old Bockwaer Brücke before continuing onto Schneeberg. . This was useful for the highway was later extended to the south enroute to Reinsdorf, the motorway exit Zwickau-Ost and later Hartenstein. The new bridge has been serving traffic for over 60 years but age and wear and tear may warrant a much-needed rehabilitation in the future.
As for the Bockwaer Brücke, once the new Schedewitz Bridge was opened to traffic in 1958, work commenced to remove the street car tracks, plus halve the roadway to a point where only bikes and pedestrians could use the old bridge. The bridge was then raised 2 meters to avoid damming the river in the event of flooding. Today, the bridge still serves cyclists and pedestrians but work may be needed to make the structure more functionable. Already the Zwickau City Council rejected a proposal to rehabilitate the bridge in 2017, which raises questions on the bridge’s future. Will there be enough locals willing to convince the city council to reconsider, or will indifference and a strive for modernization doom the old structure, whose history is worth preserving, especially as it is part of the history of Zwickau and the Silver Road?
Another important crossing to mention is the Cainsdorf Bridge. While little has been written about its history, the 1929 two-span steel deck plate girder span crosses the Zwickau Mulde at the railroad station along the Zwickau-Aue-Johanngeorgenstadt line. The bridge connects Cainsdorf and areas to the west and the eastern edge of Zwickau between Oberhohndorf and the city of Wilkau-Hasslau and provides the lone access to the Planitz district, which includes a restored castle and church, where the present-day Clara Wieck Gymnasium is located. Sadly, the bridge’s condition has deteriorated to a point where only a three-ton limit has been enforced for all vehicles except the city’s bus line. The good news is the bridge is expecting a replacement bridge, to be built on a new alignment connecting both areas, but towards the Oberhohndorf district, thus cutting down the time needed to get to one’s destination in either way. Construction is expected to start in 2019 and finish by 2021. Afterwards, the historic bridge will undergo a thorough rehabilitation that will prolong its life but also allow for only cyclists and pedestrians to cross. This will be a big advantage especially those wishing to catch the train from the train station next to the bridge. A win-win situation that many locals with ties to the bridge will benefit from.
Wilkau-Hasslau Pedestrian Bridge:
Five kilometers further upstream and biking past the Cainsdorf Bridge is the pedestrian bridge at Wiklau-Hasslau, the southernmost suburb of Zwickau. There, one will find a rather unique pedestrian bridge. Built in 2004, the bridge features a pen-like tower, with cables supporting the roadway and the tower itself. The roadway has a curve, allowing cyclist from the east side and Schneeberg to enter as a ramp, as it curves to the right towards the west end. The 145 meter long pedestrian bridge crosses the Mulde River and a pair of railroad tracks that provide train service between Zwickau and Aue to the south. The valley’s hilly and wooded scenery is what the Wilkau-Hasslau Pedestrian Bridge has to offer- along with a short break at a modernized city center, which has a weekly market- before biking on to some more bridges. The tower has a height of 32.2 meters, making it the tallest bridge in Zwickau. Yet to the south of the bridge is an even taller bridge carrying the Motorway A 72. Built in 1995, that bridge spans the deepest of the Mulde River valley in Zwickau, but is the second longest bridges along the stretch between Hof (Bavaria) and Chemnitz.
Kirchberg (Mulde) Bridge:
To the north of the pedestrian bridge is the Kirchberg Bridge, perhaps the longest of the “at-level” river crossings over the Zwickau Mulde in the greater Zwickau area. When looking at the bridge from the pedestrian bridge, one could guess that the stone arch bridge, built using sandstone, had three arches. Yet when walking along the streets of Wilkau-Hasslau to get a better, closer look at the bridge, one can see the number of spans being more than double. In fact, eight spans glide over the river and the flood bed with a total length of between 300 and 400 meters. Records reveal that the Luten arch structure was built in 1867 but it appears to have been widened in the early 1990s to better accomodate traffic between the joint community (which was established in 1934) and Kirchberg, located five kilometers to the southwest. This bridge has shown its age as cracks are appearing in the stone arches. Despite emergency repairs in 2018, a full-blown rehabilitation project to prolong the crossing will most likely occur sometime in 2020. When this happens, most likely the West German style flourescent lighting will disappear in favor of fancier, ornamental lanterns with LED-lighting, which will present a more appropriate flavor for Wilkau-Hasslau.
Motorway 72 Viaduct
The tallest and longest of Zwickau’s bridges is not located in Zwickau directly, but in neighboring city Wilkau-Hasslau on the south end. The motorway viaduct was originally built in 1937-39 as part of the construction of the motorway connecting Hof with Chemnitz. Ironically, the entire stretch of the highway was not finished until 1993 due to delays caused by World War II and the division of Germany that followed. This stretch was the last built prior to the start of the war and would be used heavily after the war ended. The motorway viaduct continued service until 1995, when it was replaced with a new steel girder viaduct span, built on the piers of the original bridge. The total length is 670 meters with a height of 50 meters, making it one of the longest along the original stretch. It can be seen when entering Wilkau-Hasslau from the northern side.
Approximately 350 meters north of the Central Railway Station is the Marienthal Viaduct- the only bridge in this tour guide that does not span the Zwickau Mulde. Spanning a small but deep creek as well as Werdauer Strasse, the eight-span stone arch bridge is the longest in Zwickau, with a total length of 94 meters. With a height of 14 meters above the ground, it is also the highest. If counting the Motorway 72 Viaduct in Wilkau-Hasslau, it is the second longest in this tour guide. The viaduct is the shortest of the noted viaducts along the Nuremberg-Hof-Dresden Magistrate with the next ones in both directions being at least twice as long. The bridge was built in 1869 as the railroad was being built for Zwickau from the east. It was built using red brick, sandstone and porphyr. The bridge still sees use on a daily basis for as many as 10 trains cross this bridge per hour; most of them passenger train services connecting Zwickau with Glauchau, Chemnitz and Dresden. Albeit a regional service route, it is expected that this route will be connected to the long-distance train in the future, for the Bahn plans to electrify the line south of Hof and in the end have InterCity trains going from Dresden to Munich.
A map of the bridges in Zwickau is enclosed in case you would like to visit the bridges yourself. Some of the bridges are mystery bridges where an article has been written on each one and can be found in the Chronicles. Others feature just a pic of the bridge indicating its existence but has no information on it to date.
If you have any more information on Zwickau’s bridges that need to be added, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact form below. All information will be added to this guide.
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mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} Fourth of July- the time to celebrate the birth of America. It started with the Declaration of Independence on this day in 1776; 11 years later came the Constitution creating the Republic to which it still stands today. Many historic landmarks still stand today, constructed by many architects and engineers wanting to leave their mark for future Americans to see.
This applies to bridges as well, for many engineers, whether it was John Roebling, Lawrence Johnson and Gustav Lindenthal, who immigrated from Germany, Ralph Mojeski, who originated from Poland,Salvador Calatrava, who was a Spaniard or even Siah Armajani, who gave up his Iranian citizenship to live the American Dream, left their marks on their bridge design and construction for people to see today. Most of them have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places; some will eventually be listed in the near future because of their design and the example of how these people came to the States to allow for their creativity and fantasy to run wild. Many engineers used Erector sets to draft their dream bridges before building them. Others improvised and built bridges that made people wonder in awe. In any case, many of today’s bridge builders have used the examples of bridges built in the US as a source of inspiration, despite attempts by politicians and agencies alike to have a plain bridge built in the shortest time possible at the cheapest cost- a logic that has caused many in the bridge, preservation and engineering communities to scratch their heads and question their logic. Bridges are meant to carry traffic and goods from point A to point B, yet when they are rendered obsolete, they are meant to be used as a historic marker, recognizing the tire and toil put in by engineers and bridge builders when it was built in the first place, and to be given new life for those engaging in recreational activities, such as biking, walking, jogging, etc.
So that’s why we are here to celebrate the Fourth- in style. Many bridges are part of the festivities including fireworks, dances and boat rides, like the bridge over the Mississippi River in Wabasha, Minnesota, for example. Other bridges are the focus of private venues, for fishing, grilling or just being alone to watch the sunset, a prerequisite to the fireworks that go off on the eve of dusk. In either case, when you cross a bridge this evening, built by an engineering great, think about the hard work put into building the structure and how it became part of America’s infrastructural history, which seems to be mutating at high speeds, from the first primitive crossings, to the ones built of iron and steel, to the ones that are becoming fancier to see. We must take pride in our work and consider that it is not necessary to have such a plain ugly bridge, but to have one that is a work of art, both past and present, for generations of the future to see as they cross it.
The Chronicle’s questions for the Forum (for you to post either in the Comment section of this article or on the facebook page):
1.Which bridge do you know is the site of the Fourth of July Celebrations or can be seen during the fireworks display?
2.Which bridge is your favorite place to visit and do during the summer?
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and its sister column the Flensburg Files would like to wish everyone a happy but safe Fourth of July weekend, no matter where you go and what you plan on doing for the weekend.