- Current Djurgårdsbron is historically the seventh bridge on the location
- It was opened only days before the Stockholm Exhibition of 1897
- The first bridge connecting the west of Djurgården with Östermalm was completed in 1661
In this post, we come back to a topic I have talked about in a few posts during the last couple of weeks. Earlier, I have only talked about bridges connecting Stockholm’s Old Town (Gamla stan) to the rest of the city. Djurgårdsbron does not belong in this category, though, as this bridge will help you get from Östermalm to the Djurgården island. It has been this way for centuries but as you will shortly find out, the story is not so simple.
The two city parts are thought to have been connected in the place where the present-day Djurgårdsbron sits for the first time in 1661 which is where we pick up the story. The New Bridge, as it was called, was one of two bridges you could use if you lived in the 17th century and wanted to get to the somewhat magical island. Exactly as it is today, there had been another bridge further east at Djurgårdsbrunn, which explains why the one in question was named the New Bridge.
I say the bridge is thought to have been built in 1661 since the first preserved map that actually shows it was created 35 years later. Therefore, the exact date of construction is not entirely certain. Djurgården, more officially known as Royal Djurgården (Kungliga Djurgården), has been a popular place among Swedish monarchs for centuries. One of them, King Frederick I (Fredrik I), therefore decided that there should be a bridge he could be driven through in his carriage which had not been the case at the time.
Since the existing one was in too bad a condition, the king ordered a new bridge to be built. As a map from the 1730s shows, these two bridges stood next to each other for some time. Fredrik hovsbron, as the newest one was called, was leased to a tenant who was allowed to charge everyone intending to cross the bridge, by foot or otherwise, a fee.
However, history books say that the bridge was inadequately constructed which affected its quality and safety. Frederick himself experienced the consequences of the incompetent work when parts of the wooden bridge simply fell off while he was driven through in his royal carriage.
First accurate description of this bridge available to us today dates to the turn of the 19th century. It describes a bridge that was essentially floating on the water which, as you can imagine, was not ideal for a wooden construction. It was possible to open it to make way for boat traffic, though.
A more durable and permanent solution was discussed in the early 19th century but eventually, under the reign of Charles XIV John (Karl XIV Johan), another wooden bridge replaced the former one. The idea of a permanent solution was hence postponed but not for long.
Some twenty years later, a completely new, steel bridge consisting of three spans stood ready to serve the residents of Stockholm for decades to come. That was not before it was thoroughly tested using then traditional methods. While today it may indeed sound preposterous, an actual means of testing quality of bridges in the 19th century involved 200 soldiers from the nearby regiment marching back and forth across the bridge in various predefined formations.
If the bridge held, everything was fine. An inauguration could be organised and the soldiers could happily return to their lives. In the other scenario, though, things were not quite so joyful. At the time, essentially no soldiers or members of the Navy could swim. Considering this fact, it is only logical that if the bridge turned out to be not-so-well-built, the consequences for most of the ‘testers’ were fatal.
Later, new means of testing bridges were invented which meant that the number of people risking their lives this way lowered significantly. The methods involved driving through in lorries filled with gravel or loaded buses.
In this particular case, the bridge did fine in the tests and was opened to the public shortly after. Following a renovation some forty years later, everything was looking good for the bridge and, for a while at least, it seemed like the permanent solution was found.
The grand General Art and Industrial Exposition of Stockholm (Allmänna konst- och industriutställningen) of 1897, which took place on Djurgården, was coming, though, and the Royals decided they were not quite happy with the existing bridge. Because of that, it was demolished in 1895 which gave the workers around two years to construct a new bridge.
The exhibition also known simply as Stockholm Exhibition or Stockholm’s World’s Fair (Stockholmsutställningen) was a fair of huge dimensions so important that many buildings on the western part of the island as well as on Östermalm were built with the sole purpose of impressing the visitors of this venue. Around 1.5 million people visited the fair during more than four months of its duration. They got the chance to admire art and products brought by almost 4,000 exhibitors from several countries including Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Russia.
Only days before the official start of the exhibition, King Oscar II ceremoniously opened the new Djurgårdsbron. The brand new, 57-metre long, bridge was inspired by modern bridges in continental Europe and following their example featured sculptures standing on tall columns on both sides of the road. These picture Gods from Nordic mythology historically connected to Sweden and were created by the Swedish sculptor Rolf Adlersparre.
This bridge is the seventh, and so far, the last, connecting Östermalm to Djurgården on the western side of the island. Thanks to a sensitive reconstruction carried out in the 1970s meant to make the bridge suitable for modern traffic, we can still admire the original design of Djurgårdsbron from the late 19th century today.
If you enjoyed this story, make sure to come back for more as we have a plenty of more content prepared for you. Next time, we are going to cross the bridge you just learned about and discover one of the more exotic places on the island of Djurgården.
Until then, check out our Instagram account where we post new images of places to visit in Stockholm and other major cities every day accompanied by some quick, interesting facts. We are also on Facebook where we keep you up to date on the latest news from Trevl. Come say hello!
Dufwa, Arne, 1985. Trafik, broar, tunnelbanor, gator.
Hedin, Gunnar, 1998. Stockholms broar.