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April 29, 2016

Amazing Vintage Pictures Show the Change of the Elisabeth Bridge in Budapest Before World War II

Elizabeth Bridge was named after Queen Elizabeth, the spouse of Francis Joseph I assassinated in Geneva in 1898. With only one 290-meter span stretching over the Danube, the original bridge built in eclectic style was known as the longest suspension bridge of the world.

The construction of the bridge was started in 1897 to the plans of Aurél Czekelius and Antal Kherndl. At that time, it was considered a most up-to-date solution to place the pillars supporting the portal of the bridge onto the river bank instead of the river bed. Thus the middle span of the bridge amounted to 290 meters, making the old Elizabeth Bridge the public bridge with the largest span in the world for 23 years.

At the beginning of 1902, construction works were disturbed by an unexpected incident: a 33-millimeter slip of the main-chain mountings was noticed at the Buda end. The installation was suspended until the complete investigation of the causes and the utilization of the necessary preventive measures. In order to prevent further slips, the abutments were propped by 17-meter tall socle-like stone buildings at both ends. Further support was provided by the installed cast iron weights as well as by gullet tooth-like basements enabling for the buildings to be attached to the riverside even more. Thus further slips could be prevented. In the course of investigations it had been found that the slips at the Buda end were provoked by the heating effect of Gellért Hill's thermal springs.

The bridge was inaugurated on 10 October 1903. The complete length of the bridge structure amounted to 378.6 meters, with the driveway being 11.0 meters wide, the pavements 3.5 meters each. The suspension bridge was ornamented with Art Nouveau elements. At the beginning, a wood brick road connected the rapidly developing Pest to the romantic Buda. Four lanes were available for public traffic, so that two rows of cars were able to proceed in each direction.

Unfortunately, the Elizabeth Bridge, along with many other bridges, was blown up by German troops at the end of World War II, on 18 January 1945. Payloads were placed in the two chain-lockers of the Buda end. However, only the southern chain-locker exploded, the payloads in the northern chain-locker were found later, during the demolition of the bridge. Due to the explosion, the pylon contorted and was deformed to an unidentifiable mass by the chains. At the Pest side, the pylon and the riverside span were preserved and went on to be a sad spectacle in the view of Budapest. For quite a long time, no replacement could be built for the old Elizabeth Bridge.

The Elizabeth Bridge is the only Danube bridge in Budapest that would not be rebuilt after the devastations of World War II. Instead, a completely new bridge was built between 1960 and 1964, nearly two decades after the destruction of the original Elizabeth Bridge.

Elisabeth Bridge under construction, 1902

The old Elisabeth Bridge just before completing, 1903

Vintage Budapest Bridge in 1903

The old Elisabeth Bridge circa 1910-12

Old Elizabeth Bridge in the 1910s

Old Elizabeth Bridge in the 1910s

Old Elizabeth Bridge in the 1910s

Old Elizabeth Bridge in the 1910s

Elisabeth Bridge taken from Gellért Hill. Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge in the background, ca. 1920s

Night view of the Elisabeth Bridge taken from Gellért Hill, Chain Bridge, and Margaret Bridge in the background, ca. 1920s

Budapest by night, old Elizabeth Bridge in front, ca. 1930s

 Old Elisabeth Bridge and Gellért Hill, 1933

Old Elizabeth Bridge, 1938

Snowy Elisabeth Bridge, 1940

Accident on the Elisabeth Bridge taken from Gellért Hill, 1941

Old Elizabeth Bridge, Budapest, 1941

(Photos from Nóra Mészöly)



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