2020 Author’s Choice Awards- Mr Smith takes his picks

Photo by Aleksey Kuprikov on Pexels.com

And now, before we announce the winners of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards, I have a few favorites that I hand-picked that deserve international recognition. 2020 was a year like no other. Apart from head-scratcher stories of bridges being torn down, we had an innummeral number of natural disasters that were impossible to follow, especially when it came to bridge casualties. We had some bonehead stories of people downing bridges with their weight that was 10 times as much as what the limit was and therefore they were given the Timmy for that (click on the link that will lead you to the picture and the reason behind it.) But despite this we also had a wide selection of success stories in connection with historic bridge preservation. This include two rare historic bridges that had long since disappeared but have now reappeared with bright futures ahead of them. It also include the in-kind reconstruction of historic bridges, yet most importantly, they also include historic bridges that were discovered and we had never heard of before- until last year.

And so with that in mind, I have some personal favorites that deserve international recognition- both in the US as well as international- awarded in six categories, beginning with the first one:

Best example of reused bridge:

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The Castlewood Thacher Truss Bridge in South Dakota:

One of three hybrid Thacher through truss bridges left in the US, the bridge used to span the Big Sioux River near Castlewood until it disappeared from the radar after 1990. Many pontists, including myself, looked for it for three decades until my cousin, Jennifer Heath, found it at the Threshing Grounds in Twin Brooks. Apparently the product of the King Bridge Company, built in 1894, was relocated to this site in 1998 and restored for car use, in-kind. Still being used but we’re still scratching our heads as to how it managed to disappear from our radar for a very long time…..

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/07/castlewood-bridge-in-a-new-home-on-the-threshing-grounds/

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International:

Plaka Bridge in Greece:

Built in 1866, this bridge was unique for its arch design. It was destroyed by floods in 2015 but it took five years of painstaking efforts to put the bridge back together again, finding and matching each stone and reinforcing it with concrete to restore it like it was before the tragedy. Putting it back together again like a puzzle will definitely make for a puzzle game using this unique bridge as an example. Stay tuned.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/02/19/plaka-bridge-in-greece-restored/

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Hirschgrundbrücke in Glauchau:

While it has not been opened yet for the construction of the South Park Gardens is progressing, this four-span arch bridge connecting the Park with the Castle Complex was completely restored after 2.5 years of rebuilding the 17th Century structure which had been abandoned for four decades. Keeping the outer arches, the bridge was rebuilt using a skeletal structure that was later covered with concrete. The stones from the original bridge was used as a façade. When open to the public in the spring, one will see the bridge that looks like the original but has a function where people can cross it. And with the skeleton, it will be around for a very long time.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/06/update-on-the-hirschgrundbrucke-in-glauchau-saxony/

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Worst example of reused bridge:

Northern Avenue Bridge in Boston

This one definitely deserves a whole box of tomatoes. Instead of rehabilitating the truss bridge and repurposing it for bike and public transportation use, designers unveiled a new bridge that tries to mimic the old span but is too futuristic. Watch the video and see for yourself. My take: Better to build a futuristic span, scrap the historic icon and get it over with.

Link: https://www.northernavebridgebos.com/about & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcWEvjdsAUQ

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International:

Demolishing the Pilchowicki Bridge in Poland for a Motion Picture Film-

Paramount Pictures and Tom Cruz should both be ashamed of themselves. As part of a scene in the film, Mission Impossible, this historic bridge, spanning a lake, was supposed to be blown up, then rebuilt mimicking the original structure. The bridge had served a railroad and spans a lake. The plan was tabled after a huge international cry to save the structure. Nevertheless, the thwarted plan shows that America has long been famous for: Using historic places for their purpose then redo it without thinking about the historic value that was lost in the process.

Links: https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/07/24/concern-over-reports-that-historic-bridge-in-poland-will-be-blown-up-for-tom-cruise-film/ & https://www.thefirstnews.com/article/so-long-tom-historic-bridge-saved-from-tom-cruise-bomb-14980

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Salvageable Mentioned:

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Okoboji Truss Bridge at Parks Marina in Iowa-

A one of a kind Thacher pony truss, this bridge went from being a swing bridge crossing connecting East and West Lake Okoboji, to a Little Sioux River crossing that was eventually washed out by flooding in 2011, to the storage bin, and now, to its new home- Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji. The owner had one big heart to salvage it. Plus it was in pristine condition when it was relocated to its now fourth home. A real winner.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/the-okoboji-bridge-at-parks-marina/

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International:

Dömitz Railroad Bridge between Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania in Germany-

World War II had a lasting after-effect on Germany’s infrastructure as hundreds of thousands of historic bridges were destroyed, either through bombs or through Hitler’s policies of destroying every single crossing to slow the advancement of the Allied Troops. Yet the Dömitz Railroad Bridge, spanning the River Elbe, represents a rare example of a bridge that survived not only the effects of WWII, but also the East-West division that followed, as the Mecklenburg side was completely removed to keep people from fleeing to Lower Saxony. All that remains are the structures on the Lower Saxony side- preserved as a monument symbolizing the two wars and the division that was lasting for almost a half century before 1990.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/domitz-railroad-bridge/

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Spectacular Bridge Disaster

Forest Fires along the West Coast- 2020 was the year of disasters in a literal sense of the word. Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought the world to a near standstill, 2020 was the year where records were smashed for natural disasters, including hurricanes and in particular- forest fires. While 20% of the US battled one hurricane after another, 70% of the western half of the country, ranging from the West Coast all the way to Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas dealt with record-setting forest fires, caused by drought, record-setting heatwaves and high winds. Hardest hit area was in California, Washington and even Oregon. Covered bridges and other historic structures took a massive hit, though some survived the blazes miraculously. And even some that did survive, presented some frightening photo scenes that symbolizes the dire need to act on climate change and global warming before our Earth becomes the next Genesis in Star Trek.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/great-western-fires-destroy-iconic-historic-bridges/  &  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/catastrophic-inferno-hits-western-united-states-photos-noble-reporters-worlds-iconic-news-media-site/  & https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/no-comment-nr-2-the-great-california-fire/

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Bonehead Story:

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Demolition of the Historic Millbrook Bridge in Illinois-

Inaction has consequences. Indifference has even more painful consequences. Instead of fixing a crumbling pier that could have left the 123-year old, three-span through truss bridge in tact, Kendall County and the Village of Millbrook saw dollar signs in their eyes and went ahead with demolishing the entire structure for $476,000, coming out of- you guessed it- our taxpayer money. Cheapest way but at our expense anyway- duh!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/08/26/historic-millbrook-bridge-demolished/

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Planned Demolition of the Bridges of Westchester County, New York-

While Kendall County succeeded in senselessly tearing down the last truss bridge in the county, Westchester County is planning on tearing down its remaining through truss bridges, even though the contract has not been let out just yet. The bridges have been abandoned for quite some time but they are all in great shape and would make for pedestrian and bike crossings if money was spent to rehabilitate and repurpose them. Refer to the examples of the Calhoun and Saginaw County historic bridges in Michigan, as well as those restored in Winneshiek, Fayette, Madison, Johnson, Jones and Linn Counties in Iowa.  Calling Julie Bowers and Nels Raynor!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/10/the-bridges-of-westchester-county-new-york/

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Collapse of Westphalia Bridge due to overweight truck-

To the truck driver who drove a load over the bridge whose weight was four times the weight limit, let alone bring down the 128-year old product of the Kansas City Bridge Company: It’s Timmy time! “One, …. two,….. three! DUH!!!!”  The incident happened on August 17th 2020 and the beauty of this is, upon suggesting headache bars for protecting the bridge, county engineers claimed they were a liability. LAME excuse!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/08/18/truck-driver-narrowly-escapes-when-missouri-bridge-collapses-truckers-4-truckers/

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International:

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Waldcafé Bridge in Lunzenau, Saxony-

Located near the Göhren Viaduct in the vicinity of Burgstädt and Mittweida, this open-spandrel stone arch bridge used to span the Zwickau Mulde and was a key accessory to the fourth tallest viaduct in Saxony. Yet it was not valuable enough to be demolished and replaced during the year. The 124-year old bridge was in good shape and had another 30 years of use left. This one has gotten heads scratching.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/waldcafe-bridge-in-gohren-to-be-replaced/

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Collapse of Bridge in Nova Scotia due to overweight truck-

It is unknown which is more embarrassing: Driving a truck across a 60+ year old truss bridge that is scheduled to be torn down or doing the same and being filmed at the same time. In any case, the driver got the biggest embarrassment in addition to getting the Timmy in French: “Un,…. deux,…… toi! DUH!!!” The incident happened on July 8th.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/historic-bridge-in-nova-scotia-collapses-because-of-truck-reminder-to-obey-weight-and-height-limits/

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Spectacular Bridge Find:

Root Bridges in Meghalaya State in India-

Consisting of vine bridges dating back hundreds of years, this area has become a celebrity since its discovery early last year. People in different fields of work from engineers to natural scientists are working to figure out how these vined bridges were created and how they have maintained themselves without having been altered by mankind. This region is one of the World’s Top Wonders that should be visited, regardless whether you are a pontist or a natural scientist.

Link:  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/18/living-root-bridges-in-the-tropical-forests-of-meghalaya-state-india/

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Puente de Occidente in Colombia-

This structure deserves special recognition not only because it turned 125 years old in 2020. The bridge is the longest of its kind on the South American continent and it took eight years to build. There’s an interesting story behind this bridge that is worth the read…..

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/1895-this-suspension-bridge-in-colombia-is-still-the-second-longest-span-of-its-kind-on-the-continent/

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The Bridges of Schwerin, Germany-

For bridge tours on the international front, I would recommend the bridges of Schwerin. It features seven iron bridges, three unique modern bridges, a wooden truss span, a former swing span and  a multiple span arch bridge that is as old as the castle itself, Schwerin’s centerpiece and also home of the state parliament. This was a big steal for the author as the day trip was worth it.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/03/the-bridges-of-schwerin/

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USA:

Thomas Viaduct in Maryland-

Little is written about the multiple-span stone built in 1835, except that it’s still the oldest functioning viaduct of its kind in the US and one stemming from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad era.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/25/thomas-viaduct-in-maryland/

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The Bridge Daheim in New York-

Geoff Hobbs brought the bridge to the attention of the pontist community in July 2020, only to find that the bridge belonged to a mansion that has a unique history. As a bonus, the structure is still standing as with the now derelict mansion.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/mystery-bridge-nr-132-the-bridge-daheim/

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The Bridges of Jefferson Proving Grounds in Indiana-

The Proving Grounds used to be a military base that covered sections of four counties in Indiana. The place is loaded with history, as not only many buildings have remained largely in tact but also the Grounds’ dozen bridges or so. Satolli Glassmeyer provided us with a tour of the area and you can find it in this film.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/23/the-bridges-of-jefferson-proving-grounds-in-indiana-hyb/

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Now that the favorites have been announced and awarded, it is now the voter’s turn to select their winners, featured in nine categories of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards. And for that, we will go right, this way…… =>

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The Bridges of Schwerin

Many people don’t know the fact that the city of Schwerin, with a population of 95,000 inhabitants, is the capital of the German state of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (MV). Most associate MV with its largest city, Rostock. When people see Schwerin for the first time, they mostly see at first high-rise buildings dating back to the days of Communism in East Germany. Yet after driving for 10-15 minutes, you end up seeing the city’s crown jewels: the Schwerin Castle, the Orangery and Castle Gardens and its historic city center.

Skyway Bridge

Much of this historic old town dates back to the time the castle was built, which was between 1845 and 1857. Historic buildings, churches and even bridges followed over the next half century. Schwerin survived largely unscathed during the two World Wars, yet the city became a hub for political prisoners during the 41 years of East German rule, as the castle became a prison complex. After the Fall of the Wall and its subsequent German Reunification, Schwerin became the capital of MV (again) and since 1994, the Castle has been the seat of the state government, while most of the state’s ministries are in the historic buildings that are only a few minutes walk away.

From a pontist’s point of view, there are two known bridges that one can afiliate with Schwerin; namely the Schlossbrücke and the Swing Bridge. The Schlossbrücke (in the photo above) was built in 1844 and connects the castle with the historic old town. The Swing Bridge (in the photo below), was built in 1897 and connects the castle with the castle gardens.

Both are considered the most ornamental of the bridges in Schwerin because of their railings and lighting. When looking further, though, there are more bridges than these two and they have just as much aesthetic taste as the two aforementioned structures. They include the skyway bridge connecting the State Chencellory Office with the Ministry Offices- a three-span arch bridge with ornamental features. At the Castle Gardens, there’s an unusual through beam bridge with steel panels running horizontally across the path. It’s one of the most modern of structures but also a unique one in itself.

Then there are the iron arch bridges. There are seven identical spans spanning three canals, which can be found in the Castle Gardens. They were built no later than 1890 and each have a dimension of 10-15 meters long, and up to two meters wide. Both the decking and the railings are arched.

While the railings are trussed with a Howe design, both the railings and the arch spandrels are both covered with ornamental designs, where flower-shapes can be found where the diagonal beams meet; a rose-shaped design in the circle-shaped spandrels. The endposts are vertical and bedstead, with pine cone-shaped finials on top. As mentioned in a recent Pic of the Week article, it is unknown who was behind the design and when exactly it was built, except it was at least 120 years ago because of their age and appearance. Nevertheless, it was a surprise to find seven of these spans throughout the park.

And to round off the tour, we have the lone wooden truss design in the Knuppeldamm Bridge. Built over two decades ago, the 15m span features a Howe Lattice truss span. It can be found at the entrance to Lake Schwerin as a canal empties into the body of water. Sadly, damage to the trusses has resulted in the city council’s decision to replace the span with a replica of the bridge. The damage and discussion on the causes can be found here.

Despite having written a few Pic of the Week articles on individual spans in Schwerin, there are 13 historic and unique bridges in Schwerin to visit, in addition to checking out the Castle and the historic old town. All of them are within 10 minutes walk and within the 500 meter radius of the Castle itself. Therefore, I’ve compiled a bridge tour guide, featuring photos and information on all 13 bridges for you to look at and plan to visit on your next stop in Schwerin. Unfortunately, the new wordpress format has made embedding the maps via Google impossible. Therefore, you should click on the link below. It will take you to the Map of Schwerin and the points where you can find the bridges.

Link:

If there is one item to describe the City of Schwerin it is this: It’s a jewel hidden in a pile of concrete. It takes a few minutes to get to the castle and the historic old town. Yet when you reach them and spend a day there, you will not regret the visit. There is a lot to see and do in Schwerin, and if you are a pontist or a person interested in history, there are plenty of bridges to see. From what I saw, they are more beautiful and are better an accessory to the Castle and gardens than you think.

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 118

Before getting to the tour guide on the bridges in Schwerin, there is one bridge one needs to have a look at, which is this structure. The Schlossbrücke belongs to one of the most ornamental bridges in not only Schwerin but also in the German state of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (MV). The bridge and the castle were built in the same time period, yet the bridge was needed to cross the channel of Lake Schwerin in order for the construction of the castle to be realized. The five-span stone arch bridge was constructed in 1844. The castle was built in parts from 1845 until its full completion in 1857 and the likes of Gottfried Semper, Friedrich August Stüler, Georg Adolf Demmler and Ernst Friedrich Zwirner. Because of its ornamental design, together with the bridge itself, the castle represents one of the finest examples of romantic Historicism in Europe and has been considered a World Heritage Site. The Castle is known by many as the Neuschwanstein of the North, though its Bavarian counterpart is far more visited than this one. Still the castle is the site of the state parliament which meets regularly.

Structurally, the bridge has a total length of 48 meters and a width of 16.27 meters. It’s art greco railings feature geometrical, square shapes, flanked with ornamental lanterns with horse statues found on the portal end facing the historic city center. The bridge connects the castle with the historic city center, yet another structure, built in 1897, is located on the opposite end and connects the castle with the Castle Gardens.

The bridge was rehabilitated in 1984 and since then, it has been open to only pedestrians and cyclists, even though some cars belonging to government officials can use the structure as well. The bridge’s ornamental appearance can be compared to many of the structures in other European countries. This includes the Moltke Bridge in Berlin, the Pont Alexandre III in Paris, the Ushakovsky Bridge in St. Petersburg and even the Svatopluk Čech Bridge in Prague. Surprisingly, the bridge and the castle survived both World Wars without a scratch and have maintained their aesthetic appearance, thus making them highly recommended places to visit while bridgehunting in Germany. From my personal standpoint, the bridge and the castle are a photographer’s dream, especially on a day like this one in August, where a setting like this can result in some really awesome photos, ripe for a photo contest, regardless of which camera to use.

One needs a full day to visit the castle complex and its bridges, especially with the Schlossbrücke. Yet believe me, you will never be disappointed. 🙂 ❤