The Bridges of Friedrichstadt, Germany

Stone Arch Bridge
The Stone Arch Bridge and the market square with the Dutch facaded housing in the background. Photo taken in August 2012

Located seven km (or four miles) south of the fourth largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, Husum, at the junction of the Eider and Treene Rivers, seven kilometers inward from the North Sea, Friedrichstadt appears to be a typical small town in the northernmost state of Germany with rows of small houses, farmland scenery with cattle and sheep grazing in the fields, and people greeting each other with “Moin! Moin!”. The town prides itself on its tourism and the typical specialties with fish, just like the rest of the cities up north. But Friedrichstadt also prides itself on its history and multiculture. Founded in 1623 by King Friedrich III and despite surviving four wars with its neighbors plus persecution of certain races, Friedrichstadt is one of the cultural points of interest, where large groups of Dutch, Frisans, Danes, Jews and Germans speaking northern dialects have lived for almost 400 years. It was a center commerce point for trade with empires from Russia, Scandanavia and Prussia, but is now a tourist attraction, where thousands of tourists from over 100 countries visit every year.

The town was built using Amsterdam as the ante-type, featuring canals that slice through the town of 2,300, but encircling its beloved Dutch-style houses, and like the Dutch capital, the city is loaded with bridges of different types and coming from different eras of time. Eighteen Bridges can be found in this city, including two major crossings over the Eider just outside the city limits and some key notables in the town itself. Each of the crossings can be reached by foot, by bike, or by boat, with most of them telling a story or having a picture showing its history, making the town proud of its history and heritage.  While one can write a library about the town’s 18 bridges, which is unusual for small town standards (a town of that size could have 3-5 bridges on average pending on location), this guide shows you the most important bridges you will see when spending a few hours in this quiet but important historic town.  Each bridge has a brief history, but photos for you to see, courtesy of not only yours truly, but also many contributors, who were willing to step forward to help. The credits will be provided at the end of the article.  So without further ado, we’ll start with the outer edge of town with the two Eider Bridges and work our way towards the Treene.

Friedrichstadt Arch Bridge
Inside the Friedrichstadt Arch Bridge. Photo taken in August 2012

Friedrichstadt Arch Bridge

Spanning the Eider River at the southwest end of town, this bridge represents one of the finest works of Friedrich Voss, who had constructed six bridges along the Baltic-North Sea Canal, including the Rendsburg High Bridge. Built in 1916, three years after the world-renowned bridge was open to rail traffic, the Friedrichstadt Arch Bridge features three spans- the center span being a two-part draw bridge; the outer spans being steel through arch bridges. Up until the 1950s, it was a toll bridge, where money was gathered based on the size of the vehicles and the goods being carried across. That means one could pay 400 Pfennig for driving a truck across but only 20 Pfennig when walking across. The tolls have long since been lifted and the draw bridge span is seldom used nowadays, the bridge has received its regular wear and tear as it serves traffic in and out of Friedirchstadt from the south, connecting the town with Heide. It just recently celebrated its 100th anniversary with a marathon and other celebrations.  Despite being renovated only once (in 2006), the bridge still can handle a sizeable amount of traffic today and is expected to continue to do so.

Eiderbrücke
Photo courtesy of the Friedrichstadt City Archives

 

Friedrichstadt Arch Bridge 2
Photo taken in August 2012
Friedrichstadt RR Bridge main span
View of the Friedrichstadt Railroad Bridge from the Friedrichstadt Arch Bridge. Photo taken in August 2012
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Side view of the bridge taken from the railroad bridge. Photo taken in 2017
F8-Friedrichstadt-1987-04-16-003
Sideview of the bridge before the facelift. Photo taken by H.D. Kienitz, used with permission

 

The Friedrichstadt Railroad Bridge

This bridge is one of the more popular structures in Schleswig Holstein and northern Germany. First built in 1887, the bridge featured multiple-span truss bridges with a swing span at the river crossing, with the purpose of providing passengers with rail service between Hamburg and the Island of Sylt, located in the North Sea at the Danish Border. The first bridge featured five bowstring arch spans on the north end of the Eider, followed by two Whipple through truss spans that were separated by a bowstring arch span, as shown in the picture below:

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View of the 1887 Bridge. Photo courtesy of Christiane Thomsen, Friedrichstadt City Museum

 

 

 

In 1908, the spans were replaced, one by one with another set of trusses, which featured from south to north one Pennsylvania through truss with A-frame portal bracings, one bowstring arch swing span, another Pennsylvania through truss and five polygonal Warren through truss spans. Photographer H.D. Kienitz provided a diagram of what the spans looked like below:

 

 

Five years later, an identical was built alongside the 1908 bridge and for 74 years, the bridge provided two-way traffic before a major reconstruction job took place in 1987 and lasted seven years. It consisted of replacing the bowstring arch swing span with a polygonal Warren through truss  swing span that was operated electronically and removing the 1908 span in its entirety, reducing the number of tracks on the railline to only one. This is what the bridge looks like before and after the facelift:

The duo truss bridges before the facelift in 1987. Photo taken by H.D. Kienitz, used with permission
The northern Warren trusses at the time of the facelift. Photo taken by H.D. Kienitz, used with permission
Sideview of the bridge before the facelift. Photo taken by H.D. Kienitz, used with permission
Photo of the main spans after the facelift. Photo taken in 1997 by H. Doose, used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Friedrichstadt Railroad bridge still serves traffic today, which consists of the NOB Train services, which stops regularly at Friedrichstadt, and the InterCity lines, which starts at Westerland on the Island of Sylt and runs through Hamburg going to destinations in the south. It is unknown whether there will be another two-track bridge built at this site soon. It depends on the number of passengers travelling through the western part of Schleswig-Holstein and the problem with bottlenecks at this site. Right now, with four national raillines and the options available for rail travel in the region, it appears unlikely. That might change in the five years….

Fast Fact: Apart from the InterCity line connecting Sylt and Hamburg, the three other national lines include Hamburg-Luebeck- Copenhagen (crossing the Fehmarnsund Bridge), Hamburg-Rendsburg-Flensburg-Kolding (crossing the Rendsburg High Bridge) and Hamburg-Neumuenster-Kiel, the latter two of which carry ICE-Train services, whereas the second and third lines have international connections to Scandanavia.

Red Arch Bridge at Ostersielzug. Photo taken in August 2012

The Arch Bridges of Friedrichstadt:

It is unknown how many arch bridges were built during the time of the town’s infancy. But if one counts the Eider crossing, there are four arch bridges that still serve Friedrichstadt today, regardless of its shape and form. While there is little to no information about the Red Arch Bridge, located behind the main highway, as well as the modern arch bridge located near the police station (both in Ostersielzug), the most famous of the bridges is the Stone Arch Bridge, which is located at the eastern entrance to the market square. Built in 1773, the bridge is one of the oldest structures still standing in Germany. The one-span structure was renovated in 1981 by strengthening and widening it to provide traffic across the canal, which continues to do so today. It is one of the most photographed places in the town and provides tourists who eat at the ice cream parlor next to it with a picturesque background of the city.

Passenger Boat passing through the Stone Arch Bridge. Photo taken in August 2012
Cyclist crossing the Holmertor Bridge with the Mittelburg Bridge in the far distant background. Photo taken in August 2012

Wooden Bridges in Friedrichstadt

It is unknown how many wooden bridges existed in Friedrichstadt, for they differed on location and design. But today there are at least four bridges remaining that were built made of wood, most of which feature triangular deck trusses supporting wooden support piers and three of which can be found along the northern Mitteburgwall canal, the same one where the Stone Arch Bridge is located. A pair of notable bridges should be noted here. The Middle Bridge, located next to the Stone Arch Bridge, is known as the Holmertor Bridge and featured a bascule bridge supported by a wooden tower, as depicted in a painting provided by the city. It was replaced at the end of the 19th century.  The Kuhbruecke (Cows Bridge) is located at the mouth of the Treene adjacent to the Blue Bridge and is the third bridge located at the site. A lock is located right next to it and protects the town from flooding from the Treene River.

Painting of the Holmertor Bridge before its replacement. Photo courtesy of the Friedrichstadt City Archives
Cow’s Bridge, oblique view. Photo taken in August 2012

 Blue Bridge. Photo taken by the author in 2012

Blue Bridge:

The final bridge on this tour is the Blue Bridge. Located over the Treene River in the district of Westersielzug, this bridge is the only one in the city that features a double leaf bascule bridge, one of the most common types of bridges to be found in Schleswig-Holstein. Yet this bridge represents a historic symbol for the city as about a handful of these bridges were constructed in the 1800s, including this bridge which was recently profiled as a Mystery Bridge and is also in the running for the Ammann Awards. That bridge was located in the same district as the Blue Bridge, according to the City Archives. Serving as a gateway to the historic city center from the north (and the train station), the Blue Bridge was constructed in 1991 to serve as a historic marker to the bridges that have long since been lost. However, the main spans were lifted only once in its lifetime. Reason? While the plan was to use the Treene as a thoroughfare, it was blocked thanks to a fixed span located to the west of the bridge. Since then, the bridge practically serves as a fixed span, even though technically it is a bascule bridge. Nevertheless, it is mentioned a great deal through boat tours and other notes in the travel guides and is a treat to those wanting to visit Friedrichstadt.

Author’s Note: The fixed span mentioned here has been in service since the 1970s. Its predecessor was the Kreisbahnbrücke, a polygonal Warren pony truss bridge that used to carry trolly traffic to the city from the train station.

Kreisbahnbruecke. Photo courtesy of the Friedrichstadt City Archives

To sum up, Friedrichstadt is a city full of history and surprises, no matter which aspect one is interested in. The city has 18 bridges, which is unusual, however, each one tells a story, which is worth listening to or reading about when spending time there, regardless of bridge type and size.  The city may be small, but its history and heritage makes Friedrichstadt a must-see place when visiting Schleswig-Holstein.

A map of the bridges is enclosed so you know of their location:

The author would like to thank Christiane Thomsen at the Friedrichstadt City Archives, Rainer Butenschoen, Dietrich Doose and H.D. Kienitz for their help in providing information and photos on the bridges in Friedrichstadt.

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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.