St. Petersburg Bridges

St. Petersburg Bridges

It is no wonder that St. Petersburg is called Venice of the North - the city has a great number of rivers and canals. Water covers about 7 percent of the city’s surface and divides it into many islands. Bridges link islands of St. Petersburg together. The city is home to about 800 bridges. Each bridge has its own history, its unique design and architectural features.

The first bridge in St. Petersburg was built in 1703, when the city itself was founded. It was a floating wooden bridge that connected the fortress on Zayachy Island with buildings on Gorodovoy (today Petrogradsky) Island. Initially, the bridge was called Petrovsky, and in 1887 it was renamed Ioannovsky Bridge.

The number of structures, including bridges, grew as the city developed: Anichkov Bridge (1716), Red Bridge (1717), Green Bridge (1720), and others. The first bridge across the Neva River - St. Isaac’s floating (pontoon) wooden bridge - was built in 1727. It linked Vasilyevsky Island (near the Menshikov Palace) with the central part of the city (Senate Square). The bridge was launched every year until the 1850s. By mid-18th century, there were about 40 wooden bridges in St. Petersburg, half of them were movable span bridges.

The construction of suspension iron bridges began in Russia in the 1820s. Six such structures were built in St. Petersburg between 1823 and 1826: a pedestrian bridge in the Yekaterinhof Park, Pochtamtsky Bridge across the Moika River, Panteleymonovsky and Egyptian bridges over the Fontanka River, Bank Bridge and the Bridge of Four Lions – over the Griboyedov Canal.

The first permanent drawbridge in St. Petersburg was constructed in 1850. It connected Vasilyevsky Island with the English Embankment. The new bridge was named Blagoveshchensky (Annunciation) Bridge after the Church of the Guards’ Horse Regiment and Blagoveshchenskaya (Annunciation) Square (in 1855 it was renamed Nikolayevsky Bridge, from 1918 was known as Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge; in 2007 the bridge got its original name back).

Mass construction of bridges entailed the establishment of services, which carried out repairs and maintenance works of these structures. There was no permanent service, which controlled the condition of bridges and embankments back then; at different times duties were performed by different institutions that built bridges, or residents of the city. The year 1875 marked the starting point for the establishment of a specialized service for the maintenance of bridges in St. Petersburg - a construction department responsible for the maintenance of bridges was set up under the control of the city government. Nowadays the Bridge Maintenance Service’s successor in St. Petersburg is Mostotrest, one of the oldest organizations in Russia, which is responsible for the technical maintenance of highway structures.

The collection about bridges of St. Petersburg is based on the materials from the following sources:

- Mostotrest (photographs of bridges, bridge structures, parts, decorative elements (streetlamps, railings), construction and restoration of bridges (between the 1910s and the 1980s);

- the Russian State Historical Archive (fonds 1487 “Plans and Drawings of Waterways and Highway Roads”, fonds 1286 “The Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs”, fonds 1293 “Technical Construction Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs”, fonds 1152 “The Department of State Economy of the State Council”: plans of St. Petersburg showing the location of bridges, bridge design drawings, drawings of their parts, documents on the allocation of funds for the maintenance of bridges, as well as visual materials, which feature views of the city’s bridges in the 2nd half of the 19th - early 20th centuries);

- Children's Postcard Museum and N. V. Balachenkova’s private collection (postcards with views of bridges in the 20th century).

The collection currently comprises about 900 items.