1865: Construction Begins on a Bridge in Prague

October 19, 1865

The foundation stone was laid for a bridge to be built across the river Vitava in Prague, capital city of the present-day Czech Republic. (When construction began on that bridge, Prague was the capital of Lands of the Bohemian Crown; two years later, this territory became part of the region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire collectively known as Cisleithania.) The bridge was designed by English engineer Rowland Mason Ordish. František Schön, another engineer, supervised actual construction of the bridge.

This suspension bridge was named after Franz Joseph I, who ruled over the Austrian Empire between 1848 and 1867 and then the newly formed Austro-Hungarian Empire until his death in 1916. On May 13, 1868, Franz Joseph was among those who attended the dedication ceremonies for the bridge bearing his name.

One of the distinguishing architectural features of Franz Joseph Bridge was the combination of stay and suspension rods helping to hold it together. The bridge’s main span was 330 feet (100 meters) long and 32 feet (9.8 meters) wide. The total length of Franz Joseph Bridge was 790 feet (240 meters). This bridge underwent significant strengthening and renovations during the 1890s.

Following the end of World War I and the consequent fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Joseph Bridge was renamed in honor of Slovak politician, astronomer, and aviator Milan Rastislav Štefánik.

By the 1930s, this bridge was increasingly unable to accommodate the heavy motor vehicle traffic in Prague. The bridge was therefore demolished in 1941 and eventually replaced with a new one. This replacement bridge has been officially known as Štefánik Bridge since 1997.

(The above photo of what was then called Franz Joseph Bridge was taken in 1885 by František Fridrich.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the structure originally known as Franz Joseph Bridge, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Joseph_Bridge

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